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Sacbarti ffioUege librarj 


IS J^J;t., /if a 


Edited by SIR HENRY E. ROSCOE, D.C.L.. F.R.H. 




The Century Science Series. 



John Dalton and the Rise of Modem Chemistry. 

By Sir Henry E. Roscok, F.R.S. 

Major Rennell, F.B.S., and the Rise of English 

By Clbmknts R. Markham, C.C, F.R.S., President 
of the Royal Geographical Society. 

In Preparation, 

Justus von laebig: his Life and Work. 

By W. A. Shenstone, Science Master in Clifton College. 

The Herschels and Modem Astronomy. 

Bv Miss Agnes M. Clerkb, Author of "A Popular 
History of Astronomy during the 19th Century," &c. 

KQchael Faraday: his Life and Work. 

By Professor Silvanus P. Thompson, F.R.S. 

Clerk Maxwell and Modem Physics. 

By R. T. Glazebrook, F.R.S., Fellow of Trinity College, 

Charles Lyell : his Life and Work. 

By Rev. Professor T. G. Bonney, F.R.S. 

Humphry Dayy. 

By T. E. Thorpe, F.R.S., Principal Chemist of the 
Government Laboratories. 

Pasteur : his Life and Work. 

By Armand Ruffer, Director of the British Institute of 
Preventive Medicine. 

Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species. 

By Edward B. Poulton, M.A., F.R.S., Hope Professor 
of Zoology in the University of Oxford. 


By Professor ROcker, F.R.S. 
CASSELL & COMPANY, Limited, London; Paris &» Melbourne, 



Major James Rennell 





President of the Royal Geographical Society and 
President of the llakhiyt Society 






:^-^3^ s-tf .-, 




James Rennell was the greatest geographer that 
Great Britain has yet produced. His pre-eminence, 
as Sir Henry Yule said in 1881, is still undisputed. 
But this is not the sole reason for selecting him as 
the representative of geography. He was not only 
the greatest, he was also the most many-sided devotee 
of the science. He was an explorer both by sea and 
land, a map compiler, a physical geographer, a critical 
and comparative geographer, and a hydrographer. 

When the present writer had occasion to prepare 
a notice of Major Rennell for his " Memoir of the 
Indian Surveys,"^ he had some difficulty in finding 
materials. He consulted Sir Henry Yule in 1878, 
who took great interest on general grounds, but 
especially because Rennell was the most distinguished 
ornament of the corps to which he himself belonged 
— the Bengal Engineers. The interest was renewed 
by the discovery of a porcelain medallion of Major 
Rennell at the India Office, by Sir George Birdwood. 
Sir Henry had it photographed, and the result was 
so successful that the editor of the Royal Engineers 
Journal proposed to publish it, and requested Sir 
Henry to furnish a sketch of Rennell's career as an 
accompaniment. With his usual industry, Sir Henry 

♦ 1871. Second edition, 1878, p. 54. 


Yule set to work to collect materials, and was so 
successful that he was able to contribute a very brief, 
but exceptionally valuable and interesting, memoir of 
sixteen pages to the Royal Engineers* Journal in 
1881. He entertained a hope of utilising the materials 
he had brought together at some future time in a 
memoir on a larger scale ; but that time never came. 

This fuller " Memoir " is now attempted by an 
inferior hand; yet I am pleased to have this oppor- 
tunity of carrying out, to the best of my abilities, an 
intention of one for whom I feel such warm regard 
and respect, and with whom I had held friendly and 
intimate relations during the quarter of a century 
previous to his death, in 1890. I know that he would 
have regarded my work with kindness and its short- 
comings with considerate allowances, while he would 
have warmly sympathised with my object of preserving 
or reviving the memory of him to whom he referred 
as " among the Dii majoruni gentium of scientific 

I have received much kind assistance in my work, 
without which I could not have undertaken it. Mrs. 
Rennell Rodd — the widow of Major Rennell's only 
grandson — placed at my disposal her husband's 
manuscript volume of family history, containing 
numerous memoranda of great interest, several 
letters from India, an important letter from Sir 
Edward Sabine, the series of letters from Major 
Rennell to his grandson, and the copy of Baron 
Walckenaer's eloge, originally sent to Lady Rodd. 
Mrs. Rennell Rodd also lent me the Thackeray 
family history by Mrs. Bayne, privately printed, and 
containing the memoirs of Mrs. Rennell's family, with 
notices of Major Rennell and his children. To Mr. 


F. Edmund Langley, of Chudleigh, I am indebted 
for ninety-four letters from Rennell, chiefly to his 
guardian, the Rev. Gilbert Burrington, of Chudleigh, 
from 1758, when he was a midshipman, aged sixteen, 
to the year 1785. I have to thank Earl Spencer for 
allowing me to peruse several letters to his grand- 
father, preserved among the muniments at Spencer 
House, and Mr. Morris Beaufort for the use of fourteen 
letters to his father. Sir Francis Beaufort. Letters to 
Admiral and Mrs. Smyth were kindly lent me by 
their daughter-in-law, Lady Warrington Smyth. I 
am also obliged to Sir William Flower for drawing 
my attention to a letter from Major Rennell to Dr. 
John Hunter, and for lending me his copy. Mr. 
William Foster, of the India Office, Secretary to the 
Hakluyt Society, has been so obliging as to search 
and make extracts from the records, wherever Major 
Renneirs name occurs, from 1778 to 1817 ; and I have 
also examined the manuscript maps and field books 
at the India Office, and all Renneirs charts and plans 
engraved in the collections of Dalrymple both at the 
India Office and in the map-room of the Geographical 

My other authorities are the works of Rennell 
himself and of his critics, and the histories and 
memoirs of the time. Farts of the opening pages of 
the last chapter, giving an account of the origin of 
the Raleigh Club, are taken from my " History of the 
First Fifty Years of the (icographical Society," written 
in 1 880. 


James Rexnell was the greatest geographer that 
Great Britain has yet produced. His pre-eminence, 
as Sir Henry Yule said in 1881, is still undisputed. 
But this is not the sole reason for selecting him as 
the representative of geography. He was not only 
the greatest, he was also the most many-sided devotee 
of the science. He was an explorer both by sea and 
land, a map compiler, a physical geographer, a critical 
and comparative geographer, and a hydrographer. 

When the present writer had occasion to prepare 
a notice of Major Rennell for his '' Memoir of the 
Indian Surveys,"^ he had some difficulty in finding 
materials. He consulted Sir Henry Yule in 1878, 
who took great interest on general grounds, but 
especially because Rennell was the most distinguished 
ornament of the corps to which he himself belonged 
— the Bengal Engineers. The interest was renewed 
by the discovery of a porcelain medallion of Major 
Rennell at the India Office, by Sir George Birdwood. 
Sir Henry had it photographed, and the result was 
so successful that the editor of the Royal Engineers 
Journal proposed to publish it, and requested Sir 
Henry to furnish a sketch of Rennell's career as an 
accompaniment. With his usual industry. Sir Henry 

♦ 1871. Second edition, 1878, p. 54. 


Yule set to work to collect materials, and was so 
successful that he was able to contribute a very brief, 
but exceptionally valuable and interesting, memoir of 
sixteen pages to the Royal Engineers' Journal in 
1881. He entertained a hope of utilising the materials 
he had brought together at some future time in a 
memoir on a larger scale ; but that time never came. 

This fuller " Memoir " is now attempted by an 
inferior hand; yet I am pleased to have this oppor- 
tunity of carrying out, to the best of my abilities, an 
intention of one for whom I feel such warm regard 
and respect, and with whom I had held friendly and 
intimate relations during the quarter of a century 
previous to his death, in 1890. I know that he would 
have regarded my work with kindness and its short- 
comings with considerate allowances, while he would 
have warmly sympathised with my object of preserving 
or reviving the memory of him to whom he referred 
as " among the Dii majorum gentium of scientific 

I have received much kind assistance in my work, 
without which I could not have undertaken it. Mrs. 
Rennell Rodd — the widow of Major Rennell's only 
grandson — placed at my disposal her husband's 
manuscript volume of family history, containing 
numerous memoranda of great interest, several 
letters from India, an important letter from Sir 
Edward Sabine, the series of letters from Major 
Rennell to his grandson, and the copy of Baron 
Walckenaer's eloge, originally sent to Lady Rodd. 
Mrs. Rennell Rodd also lent me the Thackeray 
family history by Mrs. Bayne, privately printed, and 
containing the memoirs of Mrs. Renneirs family, with 
notices of Major Rennell and his children. To Mr. 


F. Edmund Langley, of Chudleigh, I am indebted 
for ninety-four letters from Rennell, chiefly to his 
guardian, the Eev. Gilbert Burrington, of Chudleigh, 
from 1758, when he was a midshipman, aged sixteen, 
to the year 1785. I have to thank Earl Spencer for 
allowing me to peruse several letters to his grand- 
father, preserved among the muniments at Spencer 
House, and Mr. Morris Beaufort for the use of fourteen 
letters to his father. Sir Francis Beaufort. Letters to 
Admiral and Mrs. Smyth were kindly lent me by 
their daughter-in-law, Lady Warrington Smyth. I 
am also obliged to Sir William Flower for drawing 
my attention to a letter from Major Rennell to Dr. 
John Hunter, and for lending me his copy. Mr. 
William Foster, of the India Office, Secretary to the 
Hakluyt Society, has been so obliging as to search 
and make extracts from the records, wherever Major 
RennelFs name occurs, from 1778 to 1817 ; and I have 
also examined the manuscript maps and field books 
at the India Office, and all Rennell's charts and plans 
engraved in the collections of Dalrymple both at the 
India Office and in the map-room of the Geographical 

My other authorities are the works of Rennell 
himself and of his critics, and the histories and 
memoirs of the time. Parts of the opening pages of 
the last chapter, giving an account of the origin of 
the Raleigh Club, arc taken from my " History of the 
First Fifty Years of the (Tcographical Society," written 
in 1880. 



Preface v 

Chap. 1.— Chudleigh and the Navy .... 9 

Chap. II. — Natal Service in the East Indies ... 30 

Chap. III. — Surveyor-General of Bengal . . . .45 

Chap. IV. —Review of Geography . . . . .65 

Chap. V. — Geographical Work for India ... 83 

Chap. VI. — Geographical Work for Western Asia . 100 

Chap. VII —Geographical Work for Africa . . . 122 

Chap. VIII. — Hydrography 146 

Chap. IX. — Antiquarian Research 171 

Chap. X.— The Debt of Posterity 193 

Chap. XL— Last Years 214 







The answer to the question "Who was the first and 
greatest of English geographers ? " can be made with 
confidence. James Rennell may not have been the 
father of English geography, but he was undoubt- 
edly the first great English geographer. Much 
laborious work had to be done before geography 
became a science in this country. Materials had to be 
collected, instruments and projections had to be in- 
vented and improved, correct methods of criticism 
and accurate habits of thought gradually had to be 
established, before the work of the scientific geo- 
grapher could commence. 

The fathers of English geography were Richard 
Eden and Richard Hakluyt, who in 1555 and 1589 
published the first collections of voyages and travels. 
They stimulated the love of adventure, and en- 
couraged the spirit of enterprise which has ever 


since continued to supply geographical food, and 
all the incalculable advantages to the country which 
such nourishment ever produces. Side by side with 
the supply of knowledge must advance the means of 
obtaining it. Scientific measurements are essential to 
accurate geographical information. While Hakluyt 
was collecting his records, Davis was inventing his 
quadrant, Molyneux was constructing his globes ; and 
somewhat later, Wright was utilising the projection 
of Mercator. A little later still Purchas made his 
Pilgrimes tell their marvellous tales of adventure by 
sea and land ; while Napier invented logarithms, 
Henry Briggs and Edmund Gunter brought them into 
practical use, and Hexham furnished English readers 
with the atlas of Hondius. 

Thus the accumulation of geographical knowledge 
advanced hand in hand with the science of accurate 
measurement and delineation; and in the twenty 
years previous to the birth of Rennell, Hadley had 
invented his quadrant, Harrison had constructed his 
first chronometer, and the earlier circumnavigations of 
the eighteenth century had been projected. The 
publication of the Nautical Almanack, by Nevill 
Maskelyne, was not commenced until twenty-five 
years after Rennell was born. It was necessary that 
knowledge should be accumulated during a lengthened 
period, that great advances should be made in the 
perfecting of scientific appliances, and that the critical 
faculty should have been cultivated by deductive 
reasoning, before there could be modern successors to 
Eratosthenes and Hipparchus, to Strabo and Ptolemy. 

A geographer is so many-sided that it is not easy 
to give a comprehensive definition of the term. He 
should have been trained by years of land ox seft 


surveying, or both, and by experience in the field in 
delineating the surface of a country. He should have 
a profound knowledge of all the work of exploration 
and discovery previous to his own time. He should 
have the critical faculty highly developed, and the 
power of comparing and combining the work of others, 
of judging the respective value of their labours, and of 
eliminating errors. He must possess the topographical 
instinct ; for, like a poet, a geographer is born — he is 
not made. He must be trained and prepared for his 
work, but he must be bom with the instinct, without 
which training and preparation cannot make a finished 
geographer. He must have the faculty of discussing 
earlier work and of bringing out all that is instructive 
and useful in the study of historical geography ; and 
he must have a competent knowledge of history and 
of sciences which border upon and overlap his own, so 
far as they are understood in his day. Such men do 
not arise until the time is ripe for them. James 
Rennell possessed all these qualifications. He also 
had the advantage of succeeding to the labours of 
earlier foreign workers in the same field. De L'Isle 
and D*Anville had gone before him. They were the 
first French geographers, and Rennell was aptly 
called " the English D'Anville." 

The birthplace and youthful surroundings of our 
first English geographer will, therefore, have a special 
interest for the student of his life-story ; for we thus 
become acquainted with the images which filled his 
brain at the time when his geographical instincts first 
began to develop themselves. 

In driving along the high road from Exeter to 
Plymouth for ten miles, the traveller comes to the 
ancient market- town of Chudleigh, on the banks of 


the little river Teign : " lying under the Haldon Hills 
to the west," as old Westcote describes it. About a 
mile from Chudleigh there were two freehold proper- 
ties, called Waddon and Upcot, owned by Captain 
John Rennell, of the Artillery, who was married in 
1738 to Ann Clarke, of Chudleigh. The Rennells had 
been inhabitants of Chudleigh for many generations. 
It is probable that they descend from the Reynells of 
Plantagenet times. Waddon had been in the family 
since the days of Queen Elizabeth, but the home of 
the captain of the artillery and his wife was at a house 
built by his grandfather at Upcot. John and Anne 
Rennell had two children — Sarah, born in 1740, and 
James, born at Upcot on December 3rd, 1742, and 
baptized by Mr. Bayley, the vicar of Chudleigh, on 
the 21st of the same month. 

The earliest thing that James Rennell could re- 
member was parting with his father at Woolwich 
when he embarked for the wars. Soon afterwards 
the news of the captain's death arrived at Chudleigh. 
He had fallen in some action, the name of which is 
not recorded,"^ about two years after the battle of 
Fontenoy. In July, 1747, Mrs. Rennell was left a 
widow with two children, and her affairs were so 
embarrassed that the property had to be sold. At first 
she found a home with a distant cousin of her husband, 
Dr. Thomas Rennell, the rector of Drewsteignton, 
near Exeter. Dr. Rennell, who was father to the Dean 
of W^inchester, used to say in after years that he 
taught little James to read ; but the boy had no 
very pleasant memories connected with Drewsteignton 
and his Bamack cousins, as he called them. Before 

* Baron Walckenaer savs it was at the Battle of Lawfeldt. 


very long Dr. Rennell succeeded to the living of 
Barnack, in Northamptonshire, and the widow had 
to seek another home. She married a Chudleigh 
neighbour, named EUiott, a widower with a family by 
a former wife, and very limited means. They lived 
at Exeter, and the daughter, Sarah, was received by 
her step-father ; but he could not afford to keep the 
boy or to give him much help. When Mr. Elliott 
died, twelve, years afterwards, his step-son Rennell 
wrote of him : — " I am persuaded Mr. Elliott's heart 
was very good. He only wanted the means to 
serve me." 

James Rennell was but ten years old, and he was 
left in a forlorn position. It is believed that he was 
at Pynsent's Free Grammar School at Chudleigh for 
a short time. Yet this was the commencement of 
a very happy period in his young life. Mr. Bayley 
had died, and had been succeeded as Vicar of 
Chudleigh, in 1752, by the Rev. Gilbert Burrington. 

The new vicar's family consisted of his wife, who 
was a Miss Savery, his sister Miss Burrington, an 
old relation named Mrs. Sampson, and a baby, which 
was quickly followed by two others. These warm- 
hearted people received the fatherless boy as their 
own child. He cordially returned their affection, 
and with them James Rennell's life became a very 
happy and pleasant one. 

There were many associations connected with 
Chudleigh, as the home of his ancestors, which were 
Ukely to fix themselves on the boy's nnnd, and all 
the surroundings would be calcidated to stimulate 
his youthful geographical tendencies. The old 
church, built five centuries before his time, would 
form the central point of his survey. Inside were 


the effigies of grim Sir Piers Courtenay and his wife, 
ever kneeling side by side, and the Prophets and 
Apostles quaintly painted on the panels of the 
ancient screen. Without, the old tower rose above 
the vicarage garden, and over the street down which 
the Plymouth coach drove every day, with the guard 
sounding his horn, and waking up the little town 
from its slumbers. Farther afield there was many a 
scene of enchantment for a young boy. The sur- 
rounding country is intersected by a great number 
of those deep and solitary lanes, with their banks of 
ferns and wild flowers, which are so characteristic of 
Devonshire. A mile north of the town are Waddon 
and Kerswell Kocks, and on the other side are all the 
sylvan beauties of Ugbrooke Park, with its "castle 
dyke," its noble clumps and avenues, and the stately 
grove of beech-trees, the favourite walk of the poet 
Dryden. Most beautiful of all was the Chudleigh 
Rock, rising in a perpendicular cliff, and seen through 
breaks in a wild and tangled wood, where a noisy 
stream rushes and eddies among moss-grown stones, 
and in one place falls in a creamy cascade. The 
mouth of a dark cavern is seen on the face of the 
cliflF, and from the summit of Chudleigh Rock there 
is a glorious view of the ridge of Dartmoor, broken 
by the granite masses of Hey-Tor and Rippon-Tor. 

Amidst these scenes James Rennell passed the 
happiest days of his boyhood, his spirits brightened 
and his heart softened by the constant affection and 
care for him shown by the family at the vicarage. 
Even in these very early days he seems to have 
looked at the scenery around him with the eye of a 
young geographer ; and there is a tradition handed 
down by the Bishop of Barbadoes, who married one 


of the Barnack Rennells, that young James con- 
structed a plan of the country round Chudleigh at 
the age of twelve. 

The Plymouth coach would keep up some sort of 
interest in naval matters at Chudleigh; the geographi- 
cal instinct would be another originating cause; and 
thus the thoughts and aspirations of James Rennell 
were turned seawards when he was approaching the 
age of fourteen. The vicar had an opportunity to 
help his young friend to attain his desire. His 
brother-in-law, Mr. Savery, of an old Totnes family, 
was a retired barrister, living at a place called Slade, 
near Ivy-bridge. He was a, friend of Captain Hyde 
Parker, who was commissioning the Brilliant frigate, 
and thus it was that Rennell obtained his first naval 
appointment, with the rating of captain's servant, in 
January, 1756. 

England was on the eve of the seven years' war 
with France, which was declared on the 18th of May, 
1756. Those were the days when Lord Anson, the 
circumnavigator, was First Lord of the Admiralty, and 
when Hawke and Boscawen commanded our fleets. 
Life in the navy was much rougher than it is now. 
There was seldom anything but ships* provisions in the 
midshipman's berth, and these provisions were not so 
appetising as they became after the Mutiny of the Nore. 
The weekly accounts of those days give bread, 
beef, pork, pease, oatmeal, butter, cheese, beer, with 
salt fish on banyan days. The reports of surveys on 
provisions, especially on cheese and beer, were re- 
volting. Pea-soup and lobscouse were tolerable, but 
dog's-body and burgoo were merely filling, without 
relish. Clothing was not fixed by any rules, except 
for commissioned officers. Before Lord Anson's time, 


indeed, the lieutenants purchased the soldiers' old coats 
at Gibraltar or Port Mahon, trimmed them with black, 
and wore them as uniform. In 1747 the Admiralty 
issued orders that a uniform should be worn, consisting 
of a blue coat with white collar, cuffs, and facings ; yet 
as late as 1759 young Rennell saw a master of a king's 
ship wearing a red coat with black facings, and think- 
ing himself very smart. It may have been an old 
coat of one of the Heutenants, who then wore blue 
uniforms ; the ranks being distinguished by gold lace, 
and the midshipmen having those picturesque patches 
with button and twist, which still survive. 

But although the life in a midshipman's berth was 
rough, it was not always unpleasant. In spite of 
noise and interruption, there was reading and study, 
as well as agreeable intercourse. Then, as now, the 
truest and most enduring friendships were formed 
amongst midshipmen, as we shall see in the course of 
the present biography; and the midshipman's berth 
has been the nursery not only of the naval preservers 
of our country, but also of renoAvned generals and 
learned chancellors. The poet Falconer was the con- 
temporary of young Rennell, and has graphically 
described the midshipman's berth.**^ 

" In canvass'd berth, profoundly deep in thought. 
His biisy mind with sines and tangents fraught, 
A Mid reclines : in calculation lost 
His efforts still by some intruder crosst. 
Now to the longitude's vast height he soars, 
And now formation of lohscouse explores. 
Now o'er a field of logarithms bends, 
And now to make a pudding he pretends ; 

* Written a few years before 1762 : probably in 1758. 

A midshipman's berth. 17 

At once the sage, the hero, and the cook, 

He wields the sword, the saucepan, and the book. 

Opposed to him a sprightly messmate lolls, 

Declaims with Garrick* or with Shuterf drolls ; 

Sometimes his breast at Cato's virtue warms. 

And then his task the gay Lothario charms. 

Cleone s grief his tragic feelings wake. 

With Richard's pangs the OrlopianJ caverns shake. 

No more— the mess for other joys repine 

When pea soup entering shows 'tis time to dine. 

But think not meanly of this humble seat 

Whence spring the guardians of the British Fleet. 

Revere the sacred spot, however low, 

Which formed to martial acts a Hawke, a Howe." 

Here we have the picture of a inidshipmau trying 
to work out his sights in the intervals of amateur 
cooking and in the midst of much uproar ; while 
another, sitting opposite to him, declaims snatches out 
of old plays ; both occupations instantly ceasing on 
the arrival of the pea soup. 

Before entering upon these exciting scenes, young 
Rennell had to take leave of his friends at the vicar- 
age. The Rev. Gilbert Burrington continued to be 
his adviser, and always acted as his agent. Rennell 
constantly corresponded with him from the time of 
his entering the navy until the old vicar's death, thirty 
years afterwards. He thought and spoke of the vicar 
and his family with the tenderest affection, and when 
they were mentioned, even by a stranger, his eyes 
filled with tears of gratitude. § Many were the 

♦ David Garrick was bom in 1716. He was then in the height of 
his fame, having taken Drury Lane in 1747, and retired from the 
stage in 1776. He died in 1779. 

t A celebrated comic actor in those days. Ho died in 1776. 

J The cockpit, which was on the Orlop deck. 

§ Letter from Mr. Topham to Mr. Burrington. 



messages he sent to Mrs. and Miss Burrington and to 
old Mrs. Sampson ; and the midshipman's letters in- 
variably ended with "love to the dear children." 
Tom, Robert, and Gilbert Burrington were their 
names, and Tom was old enough to write to his mid- 
shipman friend before he finally left England. When 
Tom reached the age of fom'teen, young Rennell was 
already receiving a good salary in India. He sent 
the boy fifty guineas through his father, with these 
words : — " Thy father was my friend ; let me be a friend 
to thee for ever." No lapse of time could efface from 
the mind of young Rennell the deep debt of gratitude 
he owed to the Burringtons, to whom was due all the 
brightness and happiness of his boyhood at Chudleigh. 
We can picture them to ourselves crowding roimd the 
Plymouth coach outside the vicarage gate, and waving 
their farewells, while the young midshipman climbed 
up and was driven away. 

James Rennell joined the Brilliant frigate (Cap- 
tain Hyde Parker), in January, 1756, and during the 
two following years he was cruising on the coast of 
Spain or in the Channel. He received great kindness 
from the captain, and was happy with his messmates. 
One of them, a midshipman named Topham, was his 
great friend. Writing to Mr. Burrington years after- 
wards, Rennell said of himself and Topham : — " In 
our former humble station we always endeavoured 
to promote each other's happiness, when we lived 
together as messmates for nearly three years." With 
such friendships the duties on board a frigate and 
the life in a midshipman's berth were made very 

More active service for the Brilliant commenced 
when she was ordered to join the squadron under the 

IN Howe's squadron. 19 

command of Commodore Howe, in 1758. While 
Lord Anson watched the French fleet in Brest, troops, 
under the Puke of Marlborough and Lord George 
Sackville, were embarked on board Howe's ships in 
June, 1758, and landed in Cancalle Bay, five miles 
from St. Malo, on the 6 th. After burning a fifty-gun 
frigate and seventy privateers in the river Ranee, the 
troops were re-embarked on the 9th without accident. 
The Duke and Lord George then went to the war in 
Germany, and an old officer named General Bligh 
took command. On August 1st Lord Howe^ was 
at St. Helens, ready for sea, with his broad pendant 
on board the Essex, Sir Edward Hawke had reheved 
Lord Anson in the blockade of Brest. The earliest 
letter from young Rennell that has been preserved is 
dated on board the Brilliant at St. Helens on July 
2nd, 1758. It gives an account of the landing at 
Cancalle, and the midshipman expresses himself 
greatly obliged for advice to keep good company, 
which he hopes he will follow. 

On August 6th Howe's squadron was off Cher- 
bourg, and the troops were landed under Colonel 
Dury, of the Guards, who entered the town without 
opposition, blew up the forts, spiked a vast number 
of guns, and destroyed the piers and basin. The 
harbour was rendered useless, and the troops were 
successfully embarked without any loss. The 
squadron then encountered a gale of wind, and put 
into Portland on August 17th to refit, but early in 
September Lord Howe proceeded on a further en- 
terprise, which was directed against St. Malo. Prince 

♦He 8u(X'.eeded to the title by the death of his brother on 
July 3rd, 1758. 

B 2 


Edward, afterwards Duke of York,^ then aged nineteen, 
was serving on board the Essex. 

This time the troops, under General Bligh, were 
landed in the Bay of St. Lunaire, in Brittany, on the 
left bank of the Ranee. After having reconnoitred 
St. Malo, the general abandoned the idea of attacking 
so strong a place, and decided to re- embark. But in 
the meanwhile, the Bay of St. Lunaire had been found 
to be too exposed, and Lord Howe selected the Bay of 
St. Cast, further to the westward, where there was a 
good sandy beach and better anchorage, for the place 
of embarkation. General Bligh was, therefore, re- 
quested to march by land to the Bay of St. Cast, 
where Lord Howe made the necessary preparations. 
Five sloops and bomb-ketches were anchored, in line, 
as near the beach as possible, and six frigates were 
placed farther out : namely, the Pallas, with the flag 
of Lord Howe, shifted from the Essex, the Brilliant, 
Montague, Portland, Jason, and Salamander, 
General Bligh commenced his march to St. Cast, his 
troops being harassed by sharp-shooters as they 
passed the woods and villages. At Martignon, the 
general received news that the French, under the 
Due d'Aiguillon, were in great force between that 
village and St. Cast : upwards of 10,000 men. 

On Monday, the 11th of September, 1758, at 
early dawn, everyone on board the frigates was 
anxiously on the look-out for troops. Young Rennell, 
on board the Brilliant, was ready to take bearings 
and make a plan of the scene of operations ; for his 

* Brother of George III. He was created Duke of York and 
Albany in April, 1 760, and became a rear-admiral at twenty-one. He 
died unmarried in Italy, aged twenty-eight, on September 17th, 1767, 
and was buried in Westminster Abbey. 


geographical instincts appear to have turned his 
attention to surveying and to the construction of 
plans and charts from the moment of his entering 
the navy. 

At about eight o'clock in the morning the little 
English force first appeared on the crest of the hill, 
near two windmills, and the bearings were carefully 
taken by Rennell ; he watched the red line marching 
straight down the slope to embark. Boats were 
immediately sent on shore, and several captains of the 
frigates landed to superintend the embarkation. Lord 
Howe, with Prince Edward, was also away in his 
galley. Very soon after the appearance of the British 
troops the French came in view a little to their right, 
and planted a battery of six field-pieces, with a view to 
harassing the march of the British to the beach. But 
they were soon driven from this position by the fire 
from the frigates and the bomb-ketches, and they took 
refuge in the village of St. Cast and among trees half- 
way down the slope, but farther to the right, where 
they could not be seen. 

The embarkation then proceeded without molesta- 
tion, until only a rear-guard of 1,200 men, including a 
detachment of the Grenadiers under Colonel Davy, 
remained on the beach. Then it was that the French, 
in overwhelming numbers, issued forth from the 
village, which was at a distance of about half-a-mile, 
and attacked the little English rear-guard with great 
fury. The Guards retreated behind a dyke, which 
Rennell describes as having been thrown up by the 
peasantry to prevent the sea, at spring-tides, from 
overflowing the low grounds. The French masses of 
troops were thus exposed to the fire from the sloops 
and bonjb-ketches, and might have been forced to 


retreat. But Colonel Davy could not endure the 
sight of the poor men on the beach and in the boats 
exposed to be slaughtered by heavy odds. Unfor- 
tunately, he sallied forth from behind the dyke, and 
led the Guards against the enemy. He fell gloriously, 
but his men were overwhelmed by superior numbers, 
more than five to one ; and there was a sickening scene 
of slaughter, the gallant fellows being driven into the 
sea and ruthlessly shot down ; while the vessels were 
obliged to cease firing because friends and foes were 
inextricably mixed. The French brought down their 
field -pieces, and used them with deadly effect. A 
small remnant received quarter, and were taken 
prisoners, including Lord Frederick Cavendish, and 
as many as five of the captains of frigates who were 
superintending the embarkation. Lord Howe re- 
mained close to the beach in his boat until the very 
last, giving directions and encouraging the boats' 
crews by his example. There were 700 men missing 
out of the 1,200 on the beach when the attack began, 
of whom 500 were prisoners. 

Young Rennell was busily engaged during the 
action in taking notes and bearings for the purpose of 
preparing a plan of St. Cast Bay, showing the positions 
and movements of troops and ships, and the sur- 
roundings of this disastrous action. " Plan of St. Cas 
Bay ; J. Rennel, feet., 1758. To the Right Honourable 
Lord Howe this plan is dedicated by his obedient 
servant, J. Rennel." It is very neatly drawn, and a 
copy, which has been preserved, was sent to his 
friend Mr. Burrington. It is the earliest specimen of 
Renneirs work as a surveyor, but it was drawn at a 
time of great excitement and sorrow. " It was a very 
shocking sight," he wrote, " to me and the rest who 


saw all that was done, to see our poor soldiers running 
some one way and some another, some into the sea 
to escape the enemy, who shot them down without 
mercy. None of the frigates were far enough in to 
fire on the enemy, save the Saltash and Stvallow 

One result ot the action was that Captain Parker 
was transferred to the Montague to replace Captain 
Rowley, who was taken prisoner at St. Cast, and the 
Brilliant was given to Captain Sterling, of the Essex, 
Returning to Devonport, young Rennell was very busy 
at the work of refitting the Brilliant during March, 
1759, and getting her ready for a cruise to the west- 
ward, in company with the Deptford. This cruise 
lasted during the month of April, and it was a verj'^ 
successful one. When off Scilly Islands, the Brilliant 
came in sight of a large privateer, overhauled, and 
captured her. She proved to be the Marquis du 
Baraille, of Dunkirk, mounted with fourteen six- 
pounders and with a crew of 120 men. A few days 
afterwards the Basquaise was also taken, a Bayonne 
privateer,inounting twenty-four six- and nine-pounders, 
with a crew of 220 men. This second capture obliged 
the Brilliant to return to Devonport, for she had 
more prisoners on board than captors, and was running 
short of provisions. During the summer there was 
another cruise, but in the autumn the young midship- 
man got leave to see his friends. He was no doubt at 
Chudleigh during part of the time, but we only hear 
of him at Slade, near Ivybridge, staying with his 
friends Mr. and Mrs. Savery, in November, 1759. 

Captain Hyde Parker had been appointed to the 
N(yi]folk, seventy-four-gun ship, to join the fleet in the 
East Indies, and he had consented to take young 


Rennellwith him if he could get round to Portsmouth 
in time. It was with the hope of more fully securing 
the approbation of Captain Parker that the lad volun- 
teered for the East Indies, for interest was the only 
road to advancement in those days. In a letter to 
Mr. Burrington, he says : — " I flatter myself that my 
going with Mr. Parker so long and hazardous a voyage 
will get me the more into his interest ; nor is it with 
any other view than that that I shall undertake it. 
It is not in the least unlikely that he will be made an 
admiral before he returns, and should a vacancy occur, 
he can promote whom he pleases." 

The young midshipman's great anxiety was to get 
a passage round to Portsmouth to join the Norfolk, 
and Captain Lucas had promised to take him in the 
Torrington. In December, 1759, he received his 
prize-money for La Basquaise, and spent a portion in 
the purchase of what he considered necessary books. 
" I imagine," he wrote, " that we shall lay siege to 
Pondichery or some other French settlement, and 
have bought some books which are very needful for 
me. They are MuUer's works, which will give me a 
perfect idea of attack and defence, and the method of 
choosing ground, building forts, and taking plans of 
places. These are two large volumes, which, with 
some other useful books for the sea, amount to one 
guinea." Thus provided, he awaited the sailing of 
the Torrington, but she got under weigh on the night 
of January 2nd, 1760, without making any signal. In 
frantic haste, he boarded the Supply transport, one of 
the Torrington 8 convoy, with his traps, and kept 
company with the frigate during the next two days. 
But in the hurry there was some informality in his 
leaving the Brilliant, and he was entered " run " on 


that ship s books, which caused him great annoyance, 
and gave Mr. Burrington much trouble in recovering 
his pay and the rest of his prize-money. 

On Friday, the 4th of January, during a fresh gale, 
with thick hazy weather, the Supply ran on shore on 
a ledge of rocks near the north-west end of the Isle 
of Wight. It was very dark, the ship was beating on 
the rocks for about two hours, the wind increased to 
a whole gale, and there was a high sea. Eventually 
the force of the wind hove her off at about seven in 
the morning, and she was anchored off Bembridge. 
Besides Rennell, there were four midshipmen on 
board and six women, who had been left behind by 
the Torrington, and whose screams were dreadful 
while the ship was bumping on the rocks. The 
Sttpply got safe into Portsmouth Harbour on Saturday, 
the 5th of January, but to RennelVs dismay, he found 
that Captain Parker had already sailed. The only 
thing to do was to follow him in some other ship. 
Almost distracted, the boy hurried to the port 
admiral, and entreated that he might be allowed a 
passage in some other ship destined for the East 
Indies. But there were admirals, both in those da5'^s 
and since, who treated midshipmen as if they were 
beneath their notice. Admiral Holborne was one 
such. " I am sorry to say," wrote Rennell, " that his 
behaviour to me was very unbecoming a gentleman." 
Rennell next applied to Captain Haldane, who was in 
command of the America^ a frigate at Spithead, about 
to sail for the East Indies. This officer assured 
the young applicant that he would be extremely wel- 
come to go on his quarter-deck, and that he would 
get the necessary order from the admiral. In the 
beginning of Febniary, 1760, young Rennell was 


installed as a midshipman on board the America, 
having furnished himself with drawing compasses, 
a navigation book, and a Hadley's quadrant. But 
he felt the loss of the companionship of messmates 
who had become real friends on board the 
Brilliant. Out of the twelve midshipmen on board 
the A'lnerica, he could only pick out three who 
were conversible and likely to become friends; but 
the surgeon's mate was not only a Devonshire 
man, they had mutual acquaintances about whom 
they could talk: which is always a great comfort on 
board ship. 

It was in a letter from the America that young 
Rennell promised his guardian always to spell his 
name with two U's in future. 

All through February there was very bad weather 
at Spithead, and the America remained at anchor. 
On the 28th the melancholy news of the loss of the 
Ramillies arrived. Admiral Boscawen had sailed 
from Plymouth on the 7th to join Sir Edward Hawke 
in Quiberon Bay with a small squadron. A violent 
gale dispersed the ships, and the Ramillies, in trying 
to make Plymouth in thick and hazy weather, passed 
the port and got embayed near Bolt Head, which was 
mistaken for the Rame. Unable to weather the point, 
the captain ordered the masts to be cut away, and 
anchored. The cables parted, and the ship was driven 
on the rocks, and dashed to pieces. All hands were 
drowned but one midshipman and twenty-five men. 
The sad tidings reached Portsmouth when the America 
had just suffered serious damage from the effects of 
the same gale of wind. She was quickly refitted, and 
was so filled up with stores and provisions, the lower 
deck being full and the ports caulked in, that she 


looked like a loaded merchant ship. On the 6th of 
March she sailed for Madras. 

Young Rennell already had ideas of entering the 
East India Company's service, if interest in the navy 
failed him. While the Artierica was at Spithead one 
of the midshipmen went up to London to pass for 
a lieutenant, but not having any interest, he was 
turned back for some trifling reason. Next day he 
went to the India House, gave the directors an 
account of what had happened to him, and applied 
for permission to pass their examination for a mate : 
which he did. He was immediately sent on board 
one of their outward-bound ships as second mate. 
The fate of his messmate set Rennell thinking, and 
his conclusion was that the post of second mate of an 
Indiaman was far preferable to that of any naval 
lieutenant. Still, he was full of hope from Captain 
Parker's patronage, and when she sailed the America 
promised to be a very pleasant ship. " I think," he 
wrote, " that I never lived happier since I have been 
in the service than in this ship. The lieutenants are 
all very young, but behave extremely well. If I have 
my health, I have not the least doubt of preferment 
this voyage ; indeed, I have more hope of it than ever." 

The voyage out occupied six months, and Rennell 
kept in excellent health, though many of the crew were 
afflicted with scurvy. They touched at Madeira, and 
reached Madagascar in July, when they were eighteen 
weeks from England. Here the America remained a 
fortnight, and the scurvy- stricken people soon re- 
covered, with abundance of fresh meat, fruit, and 
vegetables. Young Rennell was puzzled at his own 
complete freedom from scurvy. He had never eaten 
more plentifully of salt provisions since he had been 


at sea, and he made use of very little acid ; while the 
ship must have been in a most unwholesome state. 
She was so deep in the water that the ports could 
never be opened, and was very close on the lower 
deck. The only way in which he could account for 
his exemption was that he kept as much on deck and 
aloft, and took as much exercise as possible. 

The only drawback to the pleasure of the voyage 
was the outrageous conduct of Captain Haldane. He 
was exceedingly civil and agreeable at Portsmouth 
and Spithead, but as soon as they entered the tropics 
he came out in his true colours, and developed a most 
ungovernable temper. He used a stick to some of the 
midshipmen, and actually thrashed young Rennell 
with his fists before all hands, treating a messmate of 
like age, a nephew of the Speaker Onslow, in the 
same way. Rennell was unable to forgive such an 
insult. " I can forgive most injuries," he wrote, " but 
not of this nature ; nor shall my utmost endeavours 
be wanting to resent it, if ever I return to England in 
a capacity which will enable me to do so." A week 
afterwards the captain sent for the two midshipmen 
to make a sort of apology, telling them that he was 
cursed with a bad temper ; but this did not abate their 
resentment. Poor Captain Haldane died at Bombay 
in April, 1761 ; and Rennell only wondered how a man 
of so turbulent a temper had lived so long. 

As soon as the America arrived at Madras, 
Captain Hyde Parker behaved to his old shipmate 
like a sincere friend. Admiral Stevens had hoisted 
his flag on board the IS'orfolk, and Captain Parker 
had been transferred to the Grafton, a third-rate of 
sixty-eight guns. Rennell was at once appointed to 
the Grafton, and he wrote home in very good spirits. 


*' I can now say that I enjoy the happiness of a good 
ship, captain, and officers, and very agreeable company. 
Perfect harmony subsists among the officers, and 
excellent discipline among the men. I do my duty 
with pleasure, and enjoy my leisure moments in 

James Remiell was now a midshipman of some 
standing, having seen a good deal of service. He 
was eighteen years of age, and within a short time of 
passing for a lieutenant. He was a well-conducted 
young officer, zealous and intelligent, considerate for 
others, and with a great capacity for making friends. 
His love for geography had been developed by study, 
and by his opportunities for surveying and drawing 
charts. This was a preparation for more important 
work. His admirable training in the navy was 
destined to lead to great results, and to his employ- 
ment in India during nearly twenty years of arduous 
and distinguished service. 



When James Rennell arrived in India, in September, 
1760, the English had already entered upon possession 
of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa. The battle of Plassy 
had been fought three years before, and in February, 
1760, Lord Clive had returned to England, at the 
termination of his first government of Bengal. Mr. 
Vansittart had succeeded him at Calcutta; and 
in the same year Sir Hector Munro won the battle 
of Biixar over Sujah Daulah and Mir Kosim. In 
Madras the French ascendency acquired by Dupleix 
and Bussy was rapidly waning, under Count Lally. 
In 1758 Lally had sent 2,000 men, under D'Estaing, 
against Fort St. David. The place surrendered on 
June 2nd, and was reduced to ruins. In December 
Lally himself invested Madras, but the siege was 
raised in February, 1759; and this was the last gleam 
of success enjoyed by the French in India. Colonel 
Coote arrived at Madras, and in January, 1760, he 
defeated Lally at the battle of Wandiwash, and cap- 
tured Arcot, Chingleput, and several places round 
Pondichery, including Carical. In August 400 
marines were landed at Cuddalur, and the capital 
and centre of French dominion, their settlement of 
Pondichery, was soon afterwards hemmed in on 
every side. 


Admiral Watson was with Clive when Calcutta 
was recovered in 1757. He died in August, 1757, and 
in Februarv, 1758, Admiral Pocock succeeded to the 
command. He was opposed to a French fleet, under 
Count d'Ache. There was an indecisive action off 
Carical in August, 1758, when Commodore Stevens, 
the second in command of the English fleet, was 
wounded in the shoulder. But the French showed 
much prudence throughout these operations on the 
coast of India, avoiding an action, and D'Ache passed 
most of his time at Mauritius. On Sir George 
Pocock's retirement, Stevens, who had become rear- 
admiral in December, 1758, hoisted his flag on board 
the Grafton, shifting it to the Norfolk in 1760. His 
second in command was Captain Samuel Cornish, who 
began life as an apprentice on board a collier. He 
entered himself as a seaman in the navy, and was soon 
made a boatswain. Young Cornish owed his future 
advancement to his own intrinsic merit, obtaining the 
rank of a commissioned officer, and in 1742 being 
captain of the Nassau. He came out to the East 
Indies in May, 1759, with his broad pennant on board 
the seventy-four-gun ship Lenox, as second in com- 
mand, first under Sir George Pocock, and then under 
Admiral Stevens. 

Captain Parker, with whom Rennell had already 
served for three years on board the Brilliant, was a 
son of the Rev. Hyde Parker, rector of Tredington, in 
Worcestershire, and grandson of Sir Henry Parker, the 
first baronet, by Margaret, daughter of Dr. Hyde, 
Bishop of Salisbury, a relation of the Chancellor. 
Hyde Parker was a master's mate in the Gentnrioii 
with Commodore Anson in the voyage of circum- 
navigation, and became a captain in 1748. He was a 


very distinguished officer, and the Grafton was in 
excellent order."'*' 

Young Rennell*s first letter home from India was 
dated on board the Grafton, in Fort St. David 
Roads, on September 30th, 1760. Everything was 
new and strange to him. He described how the entire 
dress of the Europeans, except hats and shoes, was of 
linen, and how the shoes were made of tanned skins 
no thicker than coarse paper. The desolate condition 
of Fort St. David aroused his anger. " The French 
pillaged it and destroyed both houses and fortifica- 
tions, so that it is now quite desolate and uninhabited. 
This vile proceeding of the French, who had the 
ambition to think of driving us out of the Indies, is 
justly resented by every person here, and the delin- 
quents are now cooped up within the walls of Pondi- 
chery. Their fleet has not offered since their action 
about twelve months ago. They were then equal to 
ours, but we have since been reinforced by four sail-of- 
t he-line and two frigates. Our whole force by sea 
consists of two ships of seventy-four, one of sixty- 
eight, three of sixty-four, eight of sixty, two of fifty 
guns, and six frigates." He also speaks very highly 
of Admiral Pocock's arrangements for provisioning 

* Captain Hyde Parker afterwards served under Admiral Cornish 
at the taking of Manilla, and captured a Spanish galleon valued at 
£500,000. In 1778 he became a rear-admiral, and served on the 
North American station. He was on board the Victory , in command 
of the North Sea fleet, in 1780, and had an encounter with the Dutch 
fleet on the Dogger Bank. In 1781 he succeeded to the baronetcy, on 
the death of his clergyman brother without children. In April, 1782, 
he was appointed commander-in-chief in the East Indies, and went 
out in the CatOy but she was never heard of again after leaving Rio 
in December. Sir Hyde Parker's son, also Sir Hyde Parker, was 
Nelson's senior officer at the battle of Copenhagen. 


the fleet. " By his industry and care he so far im- 
proved the manner of living that the fleet is well 
supplied with almost every article. Fresh beef and 
soft tack are issued to the crews every day, and fruit 
and vegetables are very plentiful." 

The capture of Pondichery was the final blow to 
all chance of French ascendency. By October, 1760, 
Colonel Coote had completed the blockade by land, 
and Count Lally had cruelly driven all the inhabitants 
out of the town. The siege then commenced, and 
Admiral Stevens co-operated by sea, making Cuddalur 
his rendezvous. 

On the 6 th of October an expedition was organ- 
ised for cutting out a large French frigate and an 
Indiaman at anchor under the guns of Pondichery. 
Two unsuccessful attempts had already been made. 
This time two armed boats were told off from every 
ship in the fleet, which was then at anchor at Cudda- 
lur, about eighteen miles to the south of Pondichery. 
The boats started at sunset, and rowed all night. 
Young Rennell was selected as a volunteer in the 
division commanded by Lieutenant Ouvry. Both the 
ships were at anchor within half a musket-shot of the 
town, and in such a position as to receive protection 
from the bastions. At about two in the morning the 
English sailors boarded and cut the cables, and at the 
same moment the garrison was alarmed, and soon a 
furious cannonade began from every gun on the walls 
of Pondichery that could be brought to bear on the 
two ships. The ship which Rennell boarded had no 
sails bent, and was exposed to the fire of the enemy 
for a full hour, until she could be got ready for sea. 
Yet the whole British loss was only eight killed and 
thirty wounded. The frigate was called the Baleine, 


and was soon afterwards put in commission. The 
Indiaman, named the Hermione, was in ballast. 

The army remained in camp during the rainy 
season in order to push the siege, and Admiral 
Stevens left five ships of the line to continue the 
blockade by sea. With the rest of the fleet, he pro- 
ceeded to Trincomali, in Ceylon, arriving on 
November 1st. Rennell pronounced Trincomali 
to be one of the best harbours in the world, and he at 
once conceived a desire to make a survey of it, in 
which laudable project he was kindly encouraged and 
assisted by Captain Parker. He had made some 
plans of harbours and anchorages on the passage out, 
which he presented to his captain ; and he hoped that 
his plan of Trincomali would go some way towards 
gaining the favour both of Captain Parker and 
Commodore Cornish. He had found means of 
mastering the theory and practice of marine sur- 
veying, and, in accordance with Mr. Burrington's 
advice, he announced his intention of practising it 
whenever he had an opportunity. 

The admiral, impatient to return to Pondiehery, 
left Trincomali in the i;niddle of December, before 
the bad weather was over. The fleet had only 
returned a few days when a furious hurricane burst 
upon it. Luckily, the Grafton was lying farthest 
from the shore. The ships were soon parted from 
their anchors by the breaking of the hempen cables, 
and driven before wind and sea half full of water, 
those on. board expecting every moment to be their 
last. Their masts were either blown or cut away, and 
nothing was thought of but immediate death. The 
Dice tVAquitaine sank half a mile from the shore, 
only one man being saved. The Sivnderland and an 


Indiaman sank a little farther off. The Newcastle^ 
Queenhorough, and Protector, lire-ships, were driven 
on shore and bilged. The America , Medway, 
Panther, Falmouth, and Liverpool were all dis- 
masted. The Norfolk and Grafton were the only 
two ships, out of thirteen, that saved their masts. 
This disaster reduced the fleet to ten ships, two of 
which were scarcely seaworthy. Jury masts were 
rapidly fitted, in case the enemy's fleet, hearing 
of the catastrophe, should venture to put in an 

Still the blockade of Pondichery was continued 
by sea and land, and on January. 17th, 1761, the 
place surrendered by capitulation, after a siege of five 
months. Rennell said that this was due to want of 
provisions, and not to any fear of the place being 
taken by storm, for the besieging batteries had 
not done the French the least damage since they 
opened fire. 

The fleet then proceeded to Bombay, arriving in 
February, 1761. Rennell had learnt to swim at 
Trincomali, and when he was practising in Bombay 
Harbour he Avas so severely stung by some marine 
animals that fever supervened, and he was very ill 
for several months. He lived on shore while the ship 
was in dock, and wrote home a very graphic and 
interestmg description of Bombay to Mr. Burrington. 
Poor Admiral Stevens had grown so very fat during 
this service in the tropics that his life had become a 
burden to him, and at last he died of apoplexy on 
May 2nd, 17(51, much lamented, for he was an excel- 
lent officer. He was succeeded in command of the 
East Indian station by Admiral Samuel Cornish, a 
thorough seaman, a very capable commander-in-chief, 
c 2 


and an intimate friend of Captain Hyde Parker. 
Young Rennell's six years' service would be completed 
early in January, 1762, when he would pass for a 
lieutenant, and he thought that his chances of pro- 
motion were still good so long as the war continued. 
Admiral Cornish matured a plan for capturing 
the islands of Bourbon and Mauritius. He sent his 
scheme to the Admiralty, and during the last half of 
1761 he was busily engaged at Bombay in making 
preparations. Flat-bottomed boats for landing troops 
were finished, transports were taken up for conveying 
part of the garrison of Bombay, when dispatches 
arrived from the Admiralty stating that a much 
larger armament would be sent from England under 
Admiral Keppel, and that the East Indian squadron 
was merely required to meet the fleet from England 
at a rendezvous, and act under KeppeFs orders. 
This news upset all Admiral Cornish's schemes, and 
it must have caused him considerable disgust to find 
his own ideas adopted, but given to another to 
execute. He obeyed his orders by sailing to the 
rendezvous appointed for both fleets, which was the 
island of Rodriguez (or Diego Reyes), where he arrived 
with his squadron in October, 1761, and where he 
waited in vain for Keppel. It will not be incredible 
to those who know the ways of oflicials, that the ex- 
pedition announced to Admiral Cornish, and which 
he was to meet at Diego Reyes, was never fitted out, 
never sent, and never existed outside the dispatch 
which was written to thwart and annoy the admiral at 
Bombay. There can be very little doubt that if 
Cornish had been allowed to carry out his own plan 
the islands of Bourbon and Mauritius would have 
been taken without difficulty. 


As it was, the East Indian squadron waited for 
weeks and weeks at Diego Reyes, expecting the 
imaginary fleet under Admiral Keppel which never 
existed. This island at Rodriguez, ten miles long by 
four broad, is 330 miles east of Mauritius, and was 
discovered by the Portuguese navigator, Pedro Mas- 
carenhas, in 1512. It was first visited by a French 
ship in 1638, and was fully described by Leguat in 
1693. The roadstead is called Port Mathurin, and the 
Governor of Bourbon took possession of the island, 
and established a guard there under a superintendent 
in 1725. In 1756 an establishment was placed on the 
island for supplying Mauritius and Bourbon with 
turtles. Admiral Cornish found one Frenchman and 
his wife and half-a-dozen blacks left to collect turtle. 

Young Rennell occupied most of his time, during 
his long stay at Rodriguez, in making a survey of 
Port Mathurin, which he finished early in December ; 
and he also wandered over the island, which he de- 
scribed as very rocky and barren. This was the abode 
of that extraordinary bird called the " Solitaire," allied 
to, but distinct from, the Dodo. It is now extinct, but 
the Abbe Pingr6 believed that a few survived until 
1761, though Rennell does not mention having seen 
one. The island and its strange products made a 
deep impression on his mind ; and many years after- 
wards he described to his little grandson a species of 
very large spider belonging to Rodriguez, beautifully 
coloured, and which lived in the trees, carrying its 
web from tree to tree in the forests. He added : " I 
have caught some of them, and pulled out the thread 
with my fingers, which was as strong as common 
sewing thread. The orifice was visible, with a kind of 
raised ring round the edge of it." He also mentioned 


the purslane (Forttdaca oleracea) as comnion in waste 
ground, " which we get in large quantities, and is an 
excellent anti-scorbutic." Leguat* also refers to the 
abundance of purslane in some places of the valleys. 
Rennell saw the great land tortoises with a carapace four 
and a half feet long, " and flesh like mutton, but more 
delicate," says Leguat, which have since been exter- 
minated. The sea-coast swarmed with turtle, " which," 
says Rennell, " make excellent soup ; and we are sup- 
posed to have eaten 60,000 since our arrival; and 
there is plenty ot fish." The squadron was over 
seven weeks at Rodriguez, and afterwards cruised off 
Port Mathurin, waiting for Keppel's fleet. Admiral 
Cornish waited until the stock of fresh provisions was 
exhausted, and then made the best of his way to 
Madras. During the voyage his squadron was visited 
by a frightful outbreak of scurvy. The America lost 
160 men in three weeks, and only had 32 out of the 
sick list. Out of the Grafton's complement of 520 
men, only 150 remained well ; but young Rennell 
never felt an hour's sickness. 

Having completed his six years' service as a mid- 
shipman, Rennell was now eligible for promotion to 
the rank of lieutenant, and his future career became 
a very momentous question for him. The Grafton had 
arrived at Madras in March, 1762. Captain Parker 
foresaw difficulty in getting his young shipmate a 
commission, well as he deserved promotion. He 
offered to make interest with Lord Anson to obtain 
him a lieutenancy, but also suggested that it might, 
on the whole, be better for him to enter the sea 
service of the East India Company. Meanwhile, the 

* Page 70. 

company's sea service. 39 

Grafton went to Trincomali, and the cruise gave 
young Rennell leisure to think the matter over. It 
was at this time that he received news of the death of 
one of his best and kindest friends, Miss Burrington, 
sister of the vicar of Chudleigh. 

In April, 1763, the Grafton was again at Madras, 
and Captain Parker arranged that his young friend 
should be lent to one of the Company's men-of-war 
bound to the Philippine Islands, with. the object of 
establishing new branches of trade with the natives of 
the intervening places. Rennell's duty was now to 
delineate the coasts and to draw charts. By this 
arrangement he would be able to acquire some ex- 
perience of the Company's service, while he could 
return to the Royal Navy if he came to the conclusion 
that such a course would be preferable. Unfortunately, 
there is no account of this cruise to the eastern islands, 
which appears to have occupied about a year ; but 
there are five charts drawn by Rennell at this time, 
which were engraved by Dalrymple, and are now in the 
collection of the India Office."^ They show that the 
Nicobar Islands, Quedah, and other places on the 
Malay Peninsula, the Straits of Malacca, and places on 
the north-west coast of Borneo were visited. Rennell 
described the voyage as a series of dangers, disappoint- 
ments, and hardships. But his useful services recom- 
mended him to the authorities at Madras, and on his 
return he was offered the command of one of the 
Company's ships of war of fourteen guns, with a crew 

Bay of Camorta, Nicobar Isles 

• • • 


Quedah ... 

t • • • 


Sambeelan Isles, Straits of Malacca . . 

• • • 




, 1762 

Abai Harbour, N.W. Borneo.. 

• • • 


40 company's sea service. 

of a hundred men. As he was not discharged, and 
Captain Parker was absent, he was obliged to decline 
the offer. 

All hope of advanceipent in the Navy for young 
officers without interest was put an end to by the 
peace of Fontainebleau, which was signed on the 10th 
of February, 1763. A final decision was come to in 
favour of the East India Company's service, and 
Rennell was discharged from the navy at Madras in 
July, 1763, after a service of seven and a half years. 
He at once received command of a ship of 200 tons, 
with a salary of £300 a year : ten times that of a 
midshipman. But his command was of very brief 
duration. On the 21st of October, 1763, a hurricane 
destroyed every ship in Madras Roads, not two 
Europeans being saved out of the crews of twelve 
large vessels. Providentially, young Rennell was on 
shore, but he lost everything he had in the world. 
He had, however, made numerous friends at Madras ; 
and among the warmest and most active was the 
Governor himself, Mr. Robert Palk,^ who soon found 
employment for the youthful sailor where his services 
would be most useful. The home of the Palks, on 
Haldon Hill, almost overlooked the little town of 
Chudleigh, so that home feelings may have had 
something to do with Mr. Palk's steady friendship, 
which endured through life. 

Rennell was appointed to the command of a small 
vessel, called the Neptune, belonging to a worthy 

* Mr. Robert Palk, the Goveroor of Madras in 1763, had married 
Anne, sister of Mr. Henrj^ Vansittart, the Governor of Bengal. He 
was created a baronet in 1782, and died in 1791. His son, Sir Lawrence 
Palk, Bart., was M.P. for Devon, and his gi'eat -grandson was created 
Lord Haldon in 1880. 


Madras merchant, and he was recommended by the 
Governor as a proper person to superintend the 
landing of stores and the disembarkation of troops 
for the siege of Madura, in the extreme south of the 
Madras Presidency. At that time Madura was held 
by Muhammad Isuf, who had formerly commanded 
a native force in the Company's service. But he now 
refused to pay any revenue, and a force was sent to 
supersede him, which he resolutely opposed. The 
siege of Madura, therefore, became necessary, and the 
place was not taken until after a long resistance. On 
the 16th of December, 1763, Rennell sailed in the 
Neptune on the duty with which he had been en- 
trusted, and which he performed to the satisfaction of 
the Governor. . The troops for the siege of Madura 
were landed without accident, and Rennell was then 
ordered to remain between Ceylon and the continent, 
in charge of a fleet of small vessels, ready to land 
reinforcements. It was at this time that he executed 
surveys about Cape Calimir and the Pamben 
Channel, and the strait between Ceylon and 
Tinnevelli was named after the Governor — Palk 
Strait. After the completion of this arduous work, 
Captain Rennell returned to Fort St. George, and had 
the gratification of receiving the thanks of the Madras 
Government and a handsome present of money. 
While commanding his little squadron, he held the 
local rank of commodore. 

" I then went to Bengal," wrote Rennell, " in my 
owner's ship, where I met my worthy friend, Captain 
Tinker, in command of the king's squadron there. 
He called upon Mr. Vansittart, the Governor, and 
procured me a commission as Surveyor-General of the 
East India Company's dominions in Bengal. A few 


days afterwards I had another commission sent me 
as Probationer Engineer in the citadel erecting at 
C^alcutta, near Fort William. I must confess that I 
was never more surprised in my life. I have since 
found that I was indebted to one Mr. Topham, a 
young gentleman who formerly served in the Navy in 
the same capacity as myself, and who, having been 
the most fortunate of the two in rising in the world, 
thought it his duty to promote my interests as much 
as possible." Renneirs commission as ensign in the 
Bengal Engineers is dated April 9th, 1764. He was 
twenty-one years of age. 

Surely in this short paragraph there Ls as won- 
derful a story as is to be found in the Arabian Nights. 
A discharged midshipman, in command of a small 
coasting vessel, arrived at Calcutta, having lost all he 
possessed by shipwreck, and forthwith he is appointed 
Surveyor-General of Bengal, with a handsome salary 
and brilliant prospects. But in reality everything 
had been leading up to this unexpected consumma- 
tion. Young Rennell had ever acted up to the motto 
of Prince Henry the Navigator, Talant de hien faire : 
he never spared pains and he strove to do well. On 
such men Fortune seldom turns her back. Moreover, 
he chose the line along which he would work in his 
earliest youth, and never swerved from it. He would 
be a geographer, and with that final aim he must first 
be a surveyor. The little boy made a plan of Chud- 
leigh before he went to sea. We have seen him 
busily at work while the disaster was proceeding on 
that fatal beach of St. Cast. During the voyage to 
India, without help or encouragement, he never missed 
an opportunity of surveying the ports in which the 
America anchored. In happier circumstances he 


surveyed and made a chart of Trincomali Harbour, 
with the warm approval of Captain Hyde Parker ; so 
that he began to be known in the fleet, and even 
beyond the fleet, as a diligent and enthusiastic young 
surveyor. In that capacity he was lent to one of the 
Company's ships; and while he served on board her he 
was constantly employed in surveying and drawing 
charts. Finally, he had done very useful work in 
Palk Strait and the Pamben Channel ; so that 
Governor Palk, of Madras, was able to testify to his 
brother-in-law, Mr. Vansittart, the Governor of Bengal, 
that the youthful captain of the Neptune was an 
expert and thoroughly reliable surveyor. His merits 
were well-known in the fleet, and Captain Tinker 
could conscientiously confimi the report from Madras. 
There could be no question as to young Rennell's 
qualifications ; the only thing that could be brought 
against him was his extreme youth. 

It may, however, well be doubted whether such 
testimonials would have sufliced if private and 
powerful interest had not been brought to bear in the 
right quarter ; nor perhaps would that interest have 
been of sufficient weight without the testimonials. 
Rennell — fortunately for himself — had the faculty of 
making friends. Obliging, cheerful, and self- 
respecting, he was liked by his messmates. The 
truest and most enduring friendships are formed in a 
midshipman's berth ; and on board the Brilliant, 
when midshipmen together, Rennell and Topham were 
sworn chums. Topham afterwards got an appoint- 
ment in the Company's civil service, was advanced 
rapidly, and had indeed made his fortune. He was at 
Calcutta when the Neptune arrived, and high in the 
Governor's confidence. Mr. Vansittart was the first 


British ruler in India who felt the importance of 
accurate surveys, and he was anxious to inaugurate 
some system for at least correcting and revising the 
received geography of Bengal. This was the mo- 
ment for Mr. Topham to bring all his interest to bear 
for the benefit of his old messmate, and he did so with 
a success which aroused RennelFs surprise. The 
Surveyor- Generalship was obtained firstly through 
the Talant de bien faire : the persevering struggle to 
do well during several years ; and secondly, through 
one of those friendships formed in a midshipman's 
berth, which are ever so lasting and so true. 

Rennell had received an admirable training. The 
Navy has been the nursery not only of renowned sea- 
men, but also of great generals, lawyers, divines, and 
men of science. There could be no better preparation 
for a geographer ; and Rennell came direct from a mid- 
shipman's berth to the office of Surveyor-General of 
the Company's dominions in Bengal. He was a sailor; 
and the first of English geographers served upwards 
of seven years as a midshipman, and owed the 
grounding of his knowledge, and his capacity for 
work, to the sea. Many of his high qualities, as a 
scientific geographer, developed in after years, are 
directly traceable to his naval training. 



Rennell's survey of Bengal was the first, and it is 
very creditable to British administration that it should 
have been commenced within six years of the battle 
of Plassy and the acquisition of the country. After a 
residence at Fort William, and making the necessary 
preparations, which occupied a inonth, the young 
sailor took the field, commencing work on the Ganges, 
and carefully fixing points along its course. During 
this time, and throughout the autumn of 1764, he was 
living on board a very badly fitted-up budgerow. But 
the work of this first season was merely tentative, and 
meanwhile, the Governor had collected all the materials 
he could find. They were, however, of little value, and 
when Rennell returned to head-quarters, he made pro- 
posals for correcting the whole geography of Bengal. 

During the first season Rennell acquitted himself 
to the full satisfaction of the Government; and on 
embarking for England, Mr. Vansittart wi'ote to him : 
*' As the work you are now employed on will, I think, 
be of great use, so nothing in my power shall be 
wanting to put your services in such a light to the 
Company that they may give you the encouragement 
that your diligence deserves." His allowances were £900 
a year, which, with other perquisites, made his income 
up to £1,000. As soon as he was in receipt of it, he 


settled pensions on his mother and sister, and sent 
home handsome presents to the Burrington boys — the 
" dear children " of his early midshipman letters. On 
the 14th of January, 1765, he got his promotion, and 
became a lieutenant of engineers. 

In the second season the scheme ot operations for 
a comprehensive survey was matured, and Kennell 
completed a square of 22J degrees of longitude and 
3 of latitude, which brought him within sight of the 
mighty chain of mountains separating the plains of 
Bengal from Tibet. The name of Himalaya was then 
unknown, and Kennell called them the "Tartarian 
Mountains." He also completed the mapping of the 
course of the Ganges within Bengal. Lord Olive 
arrived at Oalcutta on the 3rd of May, 1765, and in 
October he ordered that another officer should be 
appointed to the survey as Kennell's assistant. This 
was Ensign VV. Richards. Rennell wrote: — "I have 
now company at all times; and luckily for me, 
the gentleman proves a very agreeable and cheerful 

Rennell fixed his head-quarters during the recess 
season at Dacca, the old Muhammadan capital of 
Bengal in the seventeenth century. Standing at the 
junction of the river systems of the Ganges and 
Brahmaputra, Dacca was a tolerably central position 
for his work. On the east is the Megna, on the south 
and south-west the Padma, or main stream of the 
Ganges, and on the west the Jamma, or present 
channel of the Brahmaputra. It is surrounded by a 
perfect network of fluvial highways, the city itselt 
being on the north bank of the Buriganga, and extend- 
ing four miles along the river-bank. Rennell built 
himself a house at Dacca, and here he worked out the 


field operations and prepared his maps. He became 
attached to the place, and formed many lasting 
friendships. Among his Dacca friends were Mr. 
Cartier (afterwards Governor of Bengal) and Mr. 
Kelsall (the Company's resident), Colonel Claude 
Martin, and Dr. Russell. An intimate acquaintance also 
sprang up between Rennell and Mr. Hugh Inglis,^ 
who was engaged in commercial pursuits at Dacca. 

In the cold season of 1776 Rennell extended his 
operations to the frontier of Bhutan, where he met 
with a most serious accident, being so desperately 
wounded that his life was despaired of, and his con- 
stitution was permanently injured. The Sanashi 
Fakirs, part of a fanatical tribe, were in arms to the 
number of 800, while he was engaged in sui-veying 
Baar, a small province near the Bhutan frontier. 
They had taken and plundered a town within a few 
miles of the route of the surveyors, and Lieutenant 
Morrison was sent against them with ninety Sepoys. 
Morrison had been a midshipman on board the 
Medway when Rennell was in the ATiiericdy and they 
went out to India in company. As soon as he heard 
that his old naval friend was on this service, Rennell 
at once set out to join him, and came up with him 
after he had defeated the Sanashis in a pitched battle. 
His detachment, being tired out, rested on the ground 
that night. Although Rennell was senior to Morrison, 

* Hugh Inglis was bom in Edinburgh, and was a commission 
merchaut at Dacca for several years, while Mr. Cartier was resident. 
When Jklr. Cartier went to Calcutta as second in Council in 1767, 
^Ir. Inglis followed him, and continued his business on a more extea- 
sive scale. Eeturning to England, with a fortune, in 1775, he was 
elected E.I.C. Director in 1784, and was Chairman in 1812. He was 
created a baronet in 1801, and died in 1820, aged 77. 


as his friend had been entrusted with the duty, he 
chose to serve under him as a volunteer rather than 
interfere with his command. Next morning they all 
marched in search of the enemy. After a fatiguing 
and tedious movement, by which they hemmed in 
the Fakirs between the forks of the Brahmaputra, 
they found it necessary to reconnoitre a village in 
their road, although they had no expectation of any 
hostile force being there. But they were soon un- 
deceived on finding themselves in front of two lines 
of the enemy drawn up in the market-place. Their 
escort of a few Horse rode off, and the enemy, with 
drawn sabres, immediately surrounded them. Morrison 
escaped unhurt. Richards received only a slight 
wound, and fought his way out. The Sepoy adjutant 
was badly wounded, but got off. Renneirs Armenian 
assistant was killed. He himself was so completely 
surrounded that he had little prospect of escaping. 
His pistol flashed in the pan. He had only a short 
sword, and with that he kept retreating backwards 
until he thought he had few of the enemy behind 
him. He then turned, and ran for it. One of the 
Fakirs followed him a little way, but paid the price of 
his life. The rest thought he was too badly wounded 
to run far, but kept up a constant fire on him all the 
time he was in sight. Rennell soon found himself 
fainting through loss of blood, and the remainder of 
the detachment coming up, he was put into a palan- 
quin. Morrison then made an attack on the enemy, 
and cut most of them to pieces. 

Rennell was in deadly peril. He was deprived of 
the use of both arms, and the loss of blood threatened 
immediate death. One stroke of a sabre had cut his 
right shoulder-blade through, and laid him open for 


nearly a foot down the back, cutting through or wound- 
ing several of the ribs. He had, besides, a cut on his 
left elbow, a stab in the arm, and a deep cut over the 
hand, which permanently deprived him of the use of 
a forefinger. There were some other slighter wounds, 
and a large cut across the back of his coat was found 
when it was taken off. It was, fortunately, a thick 
regimental coat; but if he had happened to have 
been wearing his usual thin clothing, this cut would 
probably have terminated his existence. 

There was no surgeon nearer than Dacca, so he 
had to be taken for three hundred miles in an open 
boat, which he had to conn himself while lying on his 
back, while the natives applied onions as a cataplasm to 
his wounds. He was six days in the boat, and when he 
arrived, and for many days afterwards, he was entirely 
given up by the surgeon. By very slow degrees he 
recovered the use of his limbs, and by the end of May 
his wounds were healed ; but he never had the perfect 
use of his right arm again, nor the forefinger of his 
left hand, while the loss of blood permanently in- 
jured his constitution. " My companions," he wrote, 
" thought it almost miraculous that I have escaped so 
well ; and I am very thankful that I am not entirely 
deprived of the use of my right arm, the provider of 
my daily bread." 

RenneU's recover}^ was due to the affectionate 
care of Dr. Francis Russell, the station surgeon at 
Dacca, who passed the prime of his life there, and 
whose friendship for the young surveyor continued 
fresh and unbroken until death. "^ In consequence of 

• Dr. Russell died at Bath on August 5th, 1791, aged 68, and 
Major Rennell wrote the inscription which was placed over his tomb 
in Walcot Church. 



this serious accident, Lord Clive ordered that in 
future the Surveyor- General should be attended by a 
company of Sepoys. During the year 1766 Lord Clive 
kept Rennell very fully employed on his own affairs, 
as well as on the public service. He encouraged him 
to complete the general survey and map of Bengal, 
communicated to him all the materials that could be 
found in the public ofl&ces, furnished him with a 
proper establishment, and gave him all the assistance 
in his power. Finally, Lord Clive created for him the 
office of Surveyor-General, with the rank of Captain of 
Engineers. Rennell prepared for the Governor a map 
of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, and of the Mogul 
Empire as far as Delhi, as well as a chart of the 
Ganges, which were sent home for the use of the 
historian Orme, who wrote such an admirable account 
of the early military achievements of the English 
in India.* 

It was, perhaps, fortunate that Captain Rennell 
was so fully occupied on detached duty during 1766, 
or he might have made common cause with the in* 
subordinate officers who struck for double batta; for 
he seems to have felt strongly on the subject. 

Double batta was first introduced after the battle 
of Plassy by the Nawab Mir Jaffier, who granted it to 
the English officers and soldiers for whose pay he was 
liable, according to the Treaty. Lord Clive, at the 
time, warned the army that it was an indulgence on 
the part of the Nawab which the Company could not 
continue. Accordingly, when the Nawab assigned 

* The first part of Onne's " History of the Military Transactions 
of the British Nation in Indostan" (1746-1760) appeared in 1763, in 
three volumes. Orrae's " Historical Fragments^* 4 vols. 4to., came out 


certain districts to the •Company, to defray the ex- 
penses of the army, the directors issued orders that 
double batta should be abolished. These orders were 
repeated several times, but the remonstrances of the 
army had hitherto prevented the Governors in 
Council from carrying them out. "The extreme un- 
popularity of the measure caused the orders to be 
evaded. When Lord Clive left England in 1764, this 
was one of the points most strongly pressed upon him 
by the Court of Directors. 

Soon after his arrival at Calcutta, Lord Clive 
issued the order that double batta should cease on the 
Isfc of January, 1766. The army was then in three 
brigades : the first under Sir R. Fletcher at Monghyr, 
the second under Colonel Smith at Allahabad, and 
the third under Sir Robert Barker at Bankipur. In 
reply to the remonstrances of the ofl&cers, the orders of 
the Company were stated, and the reduction of pay 
took place at the appointed time. Secret meetings of 
officers were then held in each brigade, at which a 
general resignation of commissions was proposed. 
Nearly two hundred commissions of captains and 
subalterns were collected, to be placed in the hands of 
the officers commanding the brigades on the 1st of 
June. They resolved to refuse the usual advance of 
pay for June, in order to avoid the charge of mutiny. 

In March, 1766, Lord Clive and General Carnac 
set out from Calcutta, to regulate the collection 
of revenue at Murshidabad and Patna, and to form 
alliances against the Mahrattas. In April Sir R. 
Fletcher reported a rumour to Lord Clive that the 
commissions were going to be sent in, and the victor 
of Plassy replied : " Such a spirit must at all hazards 
be suppressed at its birth, and every officer that 
D 2 


resigns his commission must be dismissed the service." 
He also sent to Madras for olHcers. On the 1st of 
May officers of the third brigade sent in their commis- 
sions to Sir R Barker, and forty-two officers of the 
first brigade to Sir R. Fletcher. Lord Clive arrived at 
Bankipur on the -ISth, cashiered the ringleaders, but 
allowed officers who had continued to do duty to 
remain. Sir R. Fletcher was accused of being a 
party to the conspiracy, tried by court-martial, and 
cashiered, with six other officers, who were sent home. 

The mutiny was quelled ; and Lord Clive concluded 
his period of office by a noble act of munificence. He 
had received a legacy of £70,000 from Mir Jaffier, 
which he lodged in the Company's treasury, in trust 
to form a fund for the relief of disabled or decayed 
European officers and soldiers, and for their widows. 
His lordship finally left India in January, 1767. 

Captain Rennell's feelings were, perhaps naturally, 
with the officers. He wrote that about forty remained, 
including himself, for that owing to being employed 
on detached service, he had not the honour of being 
in the secret. " It was," he added, " indeed a lucky 
circumstance for me, for no doubt I should have been 
carried away with the stream, and should have 
entered into an association which has been attended 
with disgrace to all those concerned in it." . But 
Rennell felt the reduction of pay rather bitterly, and 
sympathised with the insubordinate officers. In one 
of his letters home at this time, he wrote : — " In this 
affair we discover the generosity of the Company to a 
set of men who have conquered a territory equal in 
extent to the kingdom of France, and this in a climate 
that proves so prejudicial to European constitutions 
ihfit scarce one out of seventy men returns to his 


native country. There is a passage in Rollings 
' Ancient History ' relating to the Carthaginians dis- 
banding their mercenary troops after those troops had 
preserved the State from ruin, and the reflection on it 
perfectly suits the East India Company. Then/ says 
Rollin, ' you discover the genius of a State composed 
of merchants, who make a traffic of their fellow- 
creatures.' '* By this reduction the Surveyor-General 
lost six rupees a day. 

Mr. Henry Verelst, who succeeded Lord Clive as 
Governor of Bengal in 1767, was a very good friend of 
Captain Rennell ; and Mr. Cartier, who was second in 
the Council, became Governor after the departure of 
Mr. Verelst in 1768. Mr. Cartier had been Renneirs 
intimate friend at Dacca, and was inclined to favour 
him to the utmost. Indeed, for some time before 
his own house was completed Rennell formed one of 
Mr. Cartier's family. 

In the season of 1767-68 the Surveyor-General 
was at work in districts to the cast of the Brahmaputra, 
and also in Rangpiir and in Rangamati, on the right 
bank of the Bhagirathi. Here the Butanese drew up 
an army to oppose his progress, and Rennell very 
nearly fell into an ambuscade, but escaped with only 
one man dangerously wounded. He described the 
forests of Rangamati as chiefly inhabited by wild 
buffaloes, elephants, and tigers. In the following years, 
1768-69 and 1769-70, Rennell took his surveyors 
farther to the eastward in the valley of the Brahma- 
putra — a wild country, infested by savage animals. On 
one occasion the Surveyor-General was engaged with 
his measurements on the verge of the jungle, when a 
large leopard sprang out at him. He was so fortunate 
as to kill the beast by thrusting his bayonet down its 


throat, but not before five of his men had been 
wounded, some of them very dangerously. Indeed, 
the work of making a survey of Bengal was sur- 
rounded by difficulties and perils of all kinds, and 
since his severe wounds Rennell had had frequent 
attacks of ague and fever. 

In March, 1771, the Surveyor-General was ordered 
to take command of an expedition against a body of 
men who made inroads into the northern provinces, 
and levied large contributions. He marched three 
hundred and twenty miles in fifteen days : a remark- 
able march for soldiers in such a climate, as he justly 
remarked. The enemy, however, outmarched them, and 
would never have been overtaken but by the help ^ of 
another detachment, which moved towards them from 
the opposite direction. As it was, Rennell returned 
successful, having completely secured the objects of his 
enterprise. But it was at the cost of another violent 
attack of fever, which nearly carried him off. The 
preservation of his life was again due to Dr. Russell's 
assiduous care. 

The Surveyor-General, besides his house at Dacca, 
had an office at Calcutta, and was there during part of 
every year. He was always welcome at the house of 
Mr. Cartier, and there he made the acquaintance of 
the two Miss Thackerays, whose brother was in the 
Civil Service, and Mr. Cartier's secretary. The mar- 
riage of James Rennell was so important an event in 
his life, that it seems desirable to give some account 
of his wife's family. 

The Thackerays of Hampothwaite, on the Nidd, in 
the West Riding of Yorkshire, had been small free- 
holders for two hundred years, when two brothers, 
Elias and Thomas Thackeray, were born in the last 


decade of the seventeenth century. Elias became 
rector of Hawks well Thomas was a Kmg's Scholar at 
Eton, Fellow of King's, a Master at Eton, and in 1746 
he became Head Master of Harrow ; and he was also 
Archdeacon of Surrey. He married Ann, daughter of 
John Woodward, of Butler's Marston, in Warwick- 
shire, and when he died, in 1760, he left a widow and 
fifteen childrea The archdeacon's widow continued 
to live at Harrow with her unmarried daughters until 
her death, at the age of 89, in 1797. The eldest son, 
Elias, was Vice-Provost of Eton, and died unmarried 
in 1781. The second, John, who was chaplain at 
St. Helena, also died childless in 1770. Thomas, the 
third, was a surgeon at Cambridge, and, Hke his 
father, had fifteen children. His grand-daughter, 
Mrs. Ba3me, wrote a history of the family. Frederick, 
the fourth son, a physician at Windsor, had several 
children, among whom George was Provost of King's, 
and Frederick Rennell was a general R.E. and C.B. 
Joseph, the fifth son, was forty-three years Receiver- 
General of Customs, and lived unmarried with his 
mother and sisters at Harrow. William Makepeace 
Thackeray, grandfather of the great novelist, was 
the youngest son. Born at Harrow in 1749, he 
went out to India in the Bengal Civil Service in 
1765. There he became secretary to the Governor, 
Mr. Cartier, and in 1776 married Amelia, daughter 
of Colonel Richmond Webb, by whom he had nine 

* William, the eldest, was a Member of Council at Madras with 
Sir J. Munro, and died in 1823. 

Emily married John T. Shakespear, D.C.L., and was the mother 
of Sir Riohmond Shakespear. 

Richmond went out to India, and died in 1816. By his wife, Anne 


There were also eight daughters, and it was ar- 
ranged that two of them — Jane and Henrietta — should 
go out to India, and join their brother William at 
Calcutta. Jane was bom at Haydon, in October, 
1739, and Henrietta, who was seventeen years younger, 
in 1756. Jane was not beautiful, but she was a 
sweet, sensible, unaffected woman, and much beloved. 
Henrietta was considered a beauty. James Rennell 
became attached to Jane Thackeray, and they were 
engaged for nearly a year. The marriage took place 
at Mr. Cartier's house at Calcutta, on October 15th, 
1772, and five days afterwards the Surveyor-General 
and his wife set out for Dacca. In Novemiber Rennell 
announced his marriage to Mr. Burrington. " I have," 
he wrote, " every prospect of felicity in my present 
state, and want nothing more than to be settled in my 
native country." He was just thirty-one, his wife 
three years older. Soon afterwards, Henrietta came 
to visit her sister at Dacca, and almost immediately 
became engaged to Mr. Harris, the Resident. Mr. 
and Mrs. Harris went, home in the same ship with Mr. 
Cartier, the retiring Governor, who was reUeved by 
Warren Hastings in 1772. In July, 1773, a little girl 
named Jane was born to the Rennells, but she died 
one year and six days afterwards. A little silver copy 

Becker, he had a son: William Makepeace Thackeray, the great 
novelist, born at Calcutta. 

Charlotte married John Ritchie, and was mother of William 
Ritchie, Legal Member of the Supreme Council at Calcutta, who died 
in 1862, leaving, with others, Augusta, wife of Douglas W. Freshfield, 
Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society, 1882-1894. 

Francis, in holy orders, author of a ** Life of Lord Chatham." He 
married Anne, daughter of J. Shakespear, and had a son, Colonel 
Edward T. Thackeray, R.E., V.C., and four others : Augusta, Thomas, 
St. John, and Charles. 


of her tomb at Dacca was made for the parents, with 
the name and date inscribed on it, which is still 

The Surveyor-General had now nearly completed 
his work in the field, and for the next few years he 
was mainly occupied in arranging and collating his 
materials, and drawing the maps for the " Bengal 
Atlas," which was to be in fourteen sheets. Much of 
his manuscript work is still preserved at the India 
Office. The " Map of the Denospur and Rangegunge 
Rivers," surveyed in 1767 by Rennell and Richards, is 
on a scale of three miles to an inch. There are also a 
plan of the British factory at Dacca on a large scale, a 
reduced general map of the Megna and other rivers, a 
large scale survey of the River Megna, the eastern 
branch of the lower creek, the Mandapur Creek in 
three parts, the Ganges fifteen miles above and below 
Colgong, the River Brahmaputra in five parts, and 
maps of Rangpur, Rangamati, and Kuch Bahar. But 
these are only a small remnant of the work ot 
Rennell; and it was in the preparation of the "Bengal 
Atlas" from his numerous large scale maps which were 
the results of his field work, that the Surveyor-General 
was occupied during the last years of his residence in 
India. The " Bengal Atlas " was first published, in one 
volume folio, in November, 1779, and the second 
edition appeared in 1781. It was a work of the first 
importance both for strategical and administrative 
purposes, and is a lasting monument of the ability and 
perseverance of the young Surveyor-General. He 
executed it between his twenty- first and his thirty- 
sixth years. Each map was dedicated to friends with 
or under whom Rennell had served ; and it is inte- 
resting to see who were thooc selected by the Surveyor- 


General for this distinction. One map is to the 
memory of Lord Clive, and others to Governors 
Verelst, Cartier, and Warren Hastings. Four maps 
are dedicated to officers who commanded the troops 
in India in Renneirs time: namely, Sir Hector Monro, 
Sir R. Barker, General R. Smith, and Captain J. Jones; 
to two officers who assisted him — General CaiUaiid and 
Major Carnac ; and one to Mr. Broughton Rouse, who 
translated for him several passages from the Ayin 
Akbari. The rest are inscribed to the long-tried 
friends at Dacca, Mr. Kelsall, the Resident, Sir Hugh 
Inglis, and Dr. Francis RusselL 

Renneirs happiness had been ensured by his 
most auspicious marriage. In those days there were 
no hills, no refreshing sanatoria on the slopes of the 
Himalayas, to which the Europeans whose duties kept 
them down in the hot and steaming plains could 
resort for the restoration of their exhausted powers. 
The best change of air that Rennell could find for 
himself and his wife was on the long and narrow strip 
of coast-line, backed by low ranges of hills, which 
forms the province of Chittagong, about 165 miles 
long by fifteen broad. The Sitakund range of hills 
contains the sacred peak of Chandramath, 1,155 feet 
above the sea, and beneath it is the capital of jbhe 
province, called Islamabad, which was ceded to the 
Enghsh in 1760. The European houses are each on 
small steep hills, but the place is now considered 

It was to Islamabad that Major "^ and Mrs. Rennell 
resorted to recruit their strength after a long residence 
at Dacca. Writing thence to Mr. Burrington, in 1776, 
he said that Chittagong was considered the Montpellier 

♦ Rennell received the rank of major on April 5th , 1776. 


of Bengal, and described it as a hilly country bordering 
on the sea. In the same letter he dwelt upon his 
great happiness. " I cannot help repeating/' he wrote, 
"how supremely happy I am in possessing such a 
woman as Mrs. RennelL Temper is, I believe, the 
basis of love and friendship. Neither the wittiest nor 
the wisest bear away the palm of happiness and con- 
tent, therefore I conclude it depends on temper. At 
the same time — cceteris paribus — I believe the wisest 
are the happiest, as it is these alone that make allow- 
ances for the frailties and imbecilities of human 

The survey of Bengal having been completed and 
the sheets nearly ready for publication, Major Rennell 
made preparations for returning to his native land; 
for his wounds had permanently injured his constitu- 
tion, and made it impossible for him to prolong his 
residence within the tropics. His application for a 
pension was met in a most liberal spirit by Warren 
Hastings, who valued his services very highly. His 
Government settled a handsome pension of £600 a 
year on the retiring Surveyor-General, subject to 
confirmation by the Court of Directors. 

A passage was taken in the Ashburnhani (Captain 
Waghorn), which was to leave Calcutta in March, 1777, 
and the Rennells finally left Dacca on the 2nd of 
February. The major's brother-in-law, William M. 
Thackeray, had sailed in the Triton with his wife in 
the previous December. On arriving in England, he 
bought a house at Hadley, near Barnet, where he 
continued to reside, bringing up a numerous family, 
until his death, in 1813. Rennell would find many 
changes when he arrived in England after so long an 
absence. His mother had died in 1776. His sister 


Sarah had ]nade an imprudent marriage with a man 
named Edwards, and henceforward relied much on 
pecuniary help from her brother, which was freely and 
generously given. The Burringtons were alive and 
well, and the boys were grown up. Tom had entered 
the army. Robert, by Rennell's advice, had joined the 
sea service of the East India Company, and was at 
Calcutta as a midshipman in 1772, but, unluckily, was 
not able to get leave to pay his old friend a visit at 
Dacca. Gilbert was at Oxford. Major Rennell also 
had to look forward to making the acquaintance of 
the numerous members of his wife's family. 

The Ashburnhani, with the Rennells on board, 
sailed from Calcutta in March, 1777, and arrived at 
St. Helena, after a prosperous voyage. Mrs. Rennell 
was so near her confinement that they decided to 
remain on the island, where their daughter Jane was 
born, on the 12th of October, 1777. They took their 
passage home from St. Helena in the Hector (Captain 
Williams), and had a tedious voyage of eleven weeks. 
In January, 1778, a violent storm was encountered, 
and the passengers were in great discomfort for several 
days. All the live stock and dry provisions were lost, 
and the ship was almost full of water ; even their 
infant was half drowned in the upper cabin. At 
length, however, the long voyage home was at an 
end. On the 12th of February, 1778, Major and 
Mrs. Rennell landed safely at Portsmouth with their 
little daughter, and set out for old Mrs. Thackeray's 
house at Harrow the same evening. She was living 
there with her bachelor son, Thomas, the Commis- 
sioner of Customs, and five unmarried daughters: 
Decima, Theodosia, Alethea, Frances, and Martha, 
who eventually married Mr. Evans, the curate. Mrs. 


Rennell was to pay a long visit to her mother, and 
sisters, while her husband recovered and recruited 
himself after the long voyage, occasionally going to 
London on business. He had temporary lodgings in 
Surrey Street, Strand, and afterwards in Oxford Street, 
near the corner of Orchard Street. 

There was a doubt whether the Court of Directors 
would confirm the pension granted to the Surveyor- 
General by Warren Hastings. He visited the 
Directors, and also saw Lord Sandwich, from whose 
friendly interposition he expected more than from the 
spontaneous action of the Directors themselves. His 
friend Mr. Palk also applied to the Directors on his 
behalf, and gave them some testimonials of his services 
on the coast of Coromandel. In spite of Rennell's 
great services, the Directors reduced the pension 
granted by Warren Hastings from £600 to £400 a 
year; but two years afterwards the Court became 
thoroughly ashamed of their conduct, and granted the 
full pension recommended by the Government of India 
in November, 1781. Their parsimony is also far from 
creditable as regards the " Bengal Atlas." Instead of 
publishing it at their own expense, they allowed it to 
be brought out by a subscription of the Company's 
servants in India, and they would only advance the 
small sum of £150 to Major Rennell to enable him to 
proceed with the engraving of the maps, on condition 
that he gave them a bond to repay them in eighteen 

It was on the 23rd of March, 1778, that Rennell set 
out to visit his old friends and the home of his child- 
hood in Devonshire. He stopped at Bath for a few 
days, to see his friend Dr. Francis Russell, who had 
saved his life at Dacca by his tender and affectionate 


care. But he was at Chiidleigh during the greater 
part of April, where he was warmly welcomed by old 
Mr. and Mrs. Burrington. Many an old haunt must 
have been re-visited, and many a long-forgotten 
incident brought back to his memory. But the 
greatest pleasure to Rennell must have been the 
society of his long-tried counsellor and guardian. In 
1769 Mr. Burrington had been the means of recovering 
the estate of Waddon, after a lawsuit, and Rennell 
had written : " I am particularly pleased when I 
reflect how long it had been in the family." Waddon, 
his birthplace and the home of his childhood, was 
now his own. For this and many other acts of kind- 
ness, his gratitude was due to Mr. Burrington. He 
strove to repay it by the interest he took in the boys. 
Tom was in the army. He obtained the post of 
second mate in an Indiaman for Robert, in March, 
1781. Gilbert was at Oxford, meditating the publica- 
tion of a translation of Pindar — a project warmly 
encouraged by Major Rennell. In 1782 Gilbert 
became tutor to the sons of Sir Guy Carleton, who 
was afterwards created Lord Dorchester. 

During the summer of 1778 Major and Mrs. 
Rennell were paying visits to Thackeray relations. In 
July they were staying with Mr. and Mrs. Harris 
(Henrietta Thackeray) at their house, called " The 
Vineyards," in Great Baddow, near Chelmsford. The 
Harrises lived in a very expensive style, and Mr. 
Harris drove a four-in-hand, so that when he died, in 
1790, he left his property much embarrassed. The 
Rennells also visited Dr. Boscawen at Quendon, near 
Saflron Walden, Dr. Thackeray at Cambridge, and 
Mr. William Thackeray at Hadley, near Bamet. On 
returning to London, they took a house at 18, 


Charles Street, Cavendish Square, in which their 
eldest son, Thomas Thackeray Rennell, was born, on 
the 22nd of May, 1779. Their second son, William, 
was born on January 22nd, 1781. Early in 1781 
they moved to the house which was occupied by 
Major Rennell during the rest of his life. No. 28, 
Suffolk Street (since called Nassau Street), near the 
Middlesex Hospital. Here he was close to the house 
of Sir Joseph Banks, the President of the Royal 
Society, in Soho Square, who became an intimate 
friend, and near many other agreeable acquaintances 
in Wimpole, Harley, and Mortimer Streets. 

Major Rennell suffered from very long and painful 
illnesses in 1781 and 1782, the consequences of his 
Indian service ; and he was depressed by the aspect 
of public affairs and the wretched mismanagement of 
the American revolutionary war. He wrote : " I hear 
of nothing but misery and want among the lower 
orders (the bulk of the people), and yet we are said 
to be in a flourishing condition. To hear my Lord 
North declare it, after exhausting his country, is too 
much for my patience." 

Rennell's last letter to the Rev. Gilbert Burrington 
was dated January 18th, 1785. In that year he lost 
his old and faithful friend, his constant correspondent 
and agent since he left Chudleigh, a boy of fourteen, 
nearly thirty years before. He must have felt this 
loss very deeply, for the exchange of letters had been 
continuous, and never so frequent as since Rennell 
returned to England. Mr. Burrington was succeeded 
in the vicarage of Chudleigh by his son Gilbert, who 
held the living until 1841, when he died, at the age 
of eighty-six. 

As soon as the " Bengal Atlas" was published, Major 


Rennell commenced his first purely geographical 
work : the Map of Hindostan, with a memoir. In 1782 
he wrote to Mr. Burrington : " I have another geo- 
graphical work in hand : a map of Hindostan, accom- 
panied by about one hundred and ninety pages of 
letterpress. It is a work much wanted at this time. 
The map has just been a twelvemonth in the 
engraver's hands, and my illness has not hastened 
it.'' This work marks the time when Rennell ceased 
to be merely a surveyor and draughtsman, and became 
a geographer in the more extended sense. This, 
therefore, seems to be the place at which we should 
review the progress of geography as a science, and its 
position when Major Rennell began to take his place, 
in 1782, as the foremost geographer of the age. 



Major Rennell was the leading geographer in 
England, if not in Europe, for a period of fifty years : 
from 1780 to 1830 ; while the influence of his example 
and of his methods has continued to be felt down to 
our own time. He inherited the accumulated stores 
of knowledge which were accessible in his day, and 
the scientific way of treating geographical questions 
which had been commenced by his French pre- 
decessors. The system of observing and of surveying 
in his time had been, to a great extent, elaborated by 
himself It is necessary, before discussing his literary 
work, to remind ourselves of the character and extent 
of Rennell's geographical inheritance; for it is from 
that point of view that we shall have to consider the 
great progress that he was instrumental in securing 
for the mother of all the sciences. 

His and our greatest inheritance was from the 
intellectual labours of the ancient Greeks ; although 
he was dependent on English and French translations 
for his knowledge of them. As the ability of the 
Grecian race is higher by several grades than that of 
any people that has appeared since, we must ever look 
to it for our models in the exposition of geographical 
as of every other branch of human knowledge. It 
was held by Sir Henry Maine that, in an intellectual 


sense, nothing moves in this Western world that is not 
Greek in its origin ; and it is, therefore, from the 
great masters of description and of philosophy in its 
wide scientific sense that modern geographers have 
received their most indispensable lessons. Herodotus, 
in his admirable descriptions to illustrate his history, 
furnished the earliest system of geography ; Xenophon, 
as a practical traveller and an accurate observer, was 
a model for careful route surveyors ; and Thucydides 
was undoubtedly the historian who most fully appre- 
ciated the importance of geography in the illustration 
of his own science. His lucid and masterly descrip- 
tions of particular countries, and his admirable 
treatment of topographical details, have never been 
surpassed. The ancient authors who afterwards 
devoted their attention more exclusively to geo- 
graphy, such as Strabo and Ptolemy, have, in another 
way, had an equal influence on modem systems and 
modem thought. 

Strabo, in his minute investigation of the geo- 
graphy of that part of the world that was known in his 
time, brought a vigorous critical mind to bear on the 
facts which he had collected with extraordinary 
patience and industry. It is true that he was some- 
times hypercritical, and, in rejecting information on 
insufficient grounds, he was led to wrong conclusions 
on several important points : as, for instance, in the 
position he gave to Ireland, and in his rejection of the 
prolongation of the peninsula of Brittany, as well as 
in some of his latitudes. But his systematic examina- 
tion of evidence, and his methodical treatment of the 
materials within his reach, render Strabo a model 
who must always influence, directly or indirectly, 
the minds of modern geographers. Ptolemy, being a 


far more important author, has left a mncli deeper 
impression on modern thought. Indeed, his influence 
was almost paramount until the days of OrteUus and 
Mercator, and was felt down to within a century of 
the time of Rennell in certain departments of geo- 
graphical work. We owe to Ptolemy all our know- 
ledge of Eratosthenes, Hipparchus, and Marinus of 
Tyre ; and his critical estimates of his authorities, the 
reasons he gives for the acceptance or rejection of 
their conchisions, and his own system of astronomical 
geography, have justly secured to him the highest 
place among the ancient writers on our subject. 
These great names establish the immense antiquity 
of geographical science — the first of all the sciences, 
and indispensable to some of the most important as a 
basis from which to work. The necessity for acquir- 
ing a knowledge of the ancient systems, and the 
usefulness of identifying the places and routes men- 
tioned and described by the Greek authors, as forming 
one leading branch of his science, were ideas that were 
deeply impressed on Renneirs mind. He not only 
studied the principal geographical writers of antiquity 
with the aid of translations, but extended his reading 
to the works of every minor author that was accessible 
to him. Indeed, the great works of the ancients 
formed not only a valuable, but a very fruitful 
inheritance to the enlightened student, who gave its 
true vakie to comparative geography. 

The Arabs were only transmitters of knowledge ; 
they added little to the stock accumulated by the 
superior race whose provinces they overran, while 
the injury they did to mankind by the destruction of 
the library at Alexandria is irremediable. The more 
enlightened successors of the first Muslim fanatics 
E 2 


did good service by reproducing the work of Ptolemy. 
There are also later Arabian geographers whose works 
are valuable in the study of routes in Africa, Arabia 
and Syria, Persia, and Central Asia; but they were not 
all accessible to Major Rennell. He yras, however, 
acquainted with Edrisi, Ibn Haukal, Abulfeda, Alfra- 
ganus, Benjamin of Tudela, and Ibn Batuta. 

The Middle Ages left no valuable legacy to modern 
geography. All was thick darkness, with here and 
there a bright star, such as Roger Bacon and Sacro- 
bosco. The Crusades gave rise to some imperfect 
acquaintance w^ith the East; there was some inter- 
course with distant countries through missions sent 
at long intervals, and there were vague reports of 
voyages. But even the little knowledge that did find 
its way to the minds of the men who could read, 
through these channels, was not appreciated or under- 
stood. Carpini, Rubruquis, and Marco Polo were the 
heralds of the approaching dawn. 

From the period of the Renaissance a great wealth 
of geographical knowledge was inherited by posterity ; 
but in the days of Rennell much less of this know- 
ledge was accessible than at the present time. Valu- 
able maps and books which were then rare and costly 
have now been brought within easy reach of students 
by facsimiles and new editions. A great mass of 
material was hidden away, through carelessness or 
from political motives, more especially by the Spanish 
Government, which has since been brought to Kght. 
Nor do we even now know the full extent of our 
geographical inheritance from the age of the Re- 
naissance, Still, a vast mass of information, such as 
it would occupy a student several years to become 
completely acquainted with, was accessible to Major 


Rennell. He was an indefatigable reader, and every 
work of importance was subjected by him to more 
than one perusal. 

The first work of awakening civilisation in the 
fifteenth century, so far as geographical science is 
concerned, was the publication of editions of Ptolemy, 
each edition embodying maps and notes intended to 
represent and describe the latest discoveries. These 
editions were the work of learned scholars and pro- 
fessors. But there appeared at the same time those 
beautiful portolaniy the work of Italian and Catalan 
cartographers from the information of sailors, which 
astonish us by the comparative accuracy of their 
delineations, and by the extent of the knowledge they 
represent. While the errors of Ptolemy are retained 
by the learned, we find them corrected or discarded by 
practical draughtsmen. Among these Catalan and 
Italian sailors the mariner's compass first came into 
use, and they first organised and led the Portuguese 
fleets on their career of glory. But it was Prince 
Henry the Navigator — " the immortal Prince Henry," 
as Rennell calls him — who commenced, by his genius 
and devotion, the period of continuous discovery. 
Stationed on the promontory of Sagres, occupied in 
training his courtiers and attendants to the work of 
exploring navigators, he sent forth expedition after 
expedition to discover the west coast of Africa; and 
so admirably had the prince organised his work, that 
on his death his own firm hand was never missed 
from the helm, and discovery proceeded until 
Bartolomeu Diaz rounded the Cape of Good Hope, 
and Vasco da Gama reached the west coast of India. 
The Portuguese made known during the first half of 
the sixteenth century the east coast of Africa, 


Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands, the Eastern 
Archipelago, the coasts of Malaya, China, and Japan, 
and sent embassies into the interior of Abyssinia, 
besides exploring the coast of Brazil. All these high 
achievements were first recorded in the reports and 
memoirs of the principal leaders of expeditions, and 
then by the diligence of Galvano and Damian de Goes, 
the masterly pen of Barros, and the genius of Camoens. 
Thus the exploits and geographical services of the 
little hero-nation was a part of the world's history, 
and eventually became familiar to the students of 
other countries. 

The genius of Columbus opened a still wider field 
for geographical discovery,"^ and the existence of a 
new continent, believed to be almost as large as the 
world known to the ancients, was explored in an 
astonishingly short space of time. Fifty years after 
Columbus landed on the islet of Guanahani, the whole 
of the coasts of South America had been discovered, 
as well as Mexico and Peru, and the western side of 
North America, while Magellan had passed through 
his straits and crossed the Pacific Ocean, and Sebastian 
del Cano had circumnavigated the globe. Then 
followed the construction of maps, many of which re- 
mained hidden until our own day, and the composition 
of narratives and histories, some of the most precious 
of which were kept secret and lost, or remained un- 
printed until long after the time of Kennell. 

The famous pilot, Juan de la Cosa, returning from 
his third voyage across the Atlantic, established him- 
self at the port of Santa Maria, in the Bay of Cadiz, 

* See Rennell's remarks on the genius of Columbus and on the 
globe of Martin Behaim, in his ** Herodotus" II., p. 366. 


and drew a great map of the world on an ox-hide, in 
which he combined, with the discoveries of his 
companions, Columbus and Hojeda, the work of the 
Portuguese and of the English under John Cabot. 
This most interesting and valuable document remained 
hidden, and was only made known during living 
memory. The beautiful Cantino map, drawn a few 
years afterwards by a Portuguese draughtsman at 
Lisbon, and chiefly intended to illustrate the dis- 
coveries of Corte Real, was recently recovered from a 
butcher's shop at Modena, and published in facsimile 
by Mr. Harrisse still more recently. It was the same 
with the map of Sebastian Cabot, now at Paris, and 
many others of like importance. They were all un- 
known in the last century. Others, including the 
charts of Columbus himself, are irremediably lost. 
Narratives and histories were, to some extent, equally 
inaccessible. Robertson, in spite of all his researches, 
never saw the letters or journal of the illustrious 
Genoese, nor the invaluable history of Las Casas. 

Still, even without the additional material that is 
within the reach of students of the present generation, 
there was tolerably complete information respecting 
the history of geographical discovery in the New 
World, and the progress of cartography, within the 
reach of Principal Robertson of Edinburgh, and other 
scholars whose acquaintance was enjoyed by Major 
Rennell. The works of Peter Martyr, Oviedo, and 
Gomara were known to them, and English translations 
had been made of Cieza de Leon, of Acosta by 
Grimeston, of Garcilasso de la Vega by Rycaut, and of 
Herrera by Captain Steevens. The great collections 
of Eden, Ramusio, Hakluyt, and Purchas, as well as 
the later publications of Harris, Astley, and Churchill, 


were known and highly esteemed. Eden and his 
Ehzabethan compeers not only gave English versions 
of the letters of Peter Martyr and the chronicle of 
Gomara, but also embodied the earlier French, English, 
and Dutch efforts at discovery. Within these portly 
tomes are the Portuguese exploits in India and further 
east, our own early Arctic voyages, and the first 
voyages of the East India Company. The travels of 
Chardin, Tavernier, Herbert, Hanway, Pietro della 
Valle, and others in Persia ; the works of Petis de la 
Croix, D'Herbelot, De Guignes, Du Halde, Georgi 
KcBinpfer, Thevenot, Niebuhr, the Indian travels of 
Bernier, Tavernier, and Sir Thomas Roe, were all well 
known to Rennell ; and he had also profited from 
various translations of native works. Through 
Hakluyt, he was made acquainted with the account of 
Africa by Leo Africanus. 

Although Wright was the first to explain the 
principle of Mercator's projection, and to calculate a 
table of meridional parts, pre-eminence in the carto- 
graphic art continued to belong to the Netherlands 
and Germany, and afterwards to France, throughout 
the seventeenth and indeed the eighteenth centuries. 
We borrowed the Waeghaners, or volumes of sea 
charts, from the Dutch ; and Henry Hexham published 
a magnificent translated edition of the atlas of 
Hondius, with many of the plates engraved by 
Mercator and his sons. Our own map-makers, in- 
cluding Moll and others, were very inferior, as regards 
both knowledge and cartographic execution, to their 
confreres in Amsterdam and Paris, although there 
was a marked improvement later in the eighteenth 
century, as is manifest in the engraving of the 
" Bengal Atlas." Closely as he studied the history of 


his science, Rennell never ceased to be a sailor and to 
watch all hydrographic work with the greatest 
interest. The geography of the sea was a branch of 
his subject which was quite in its infancy before 
Rennell himself and his indefatigable friend, Alexander 
Dalrymple, devoted their attention to it. Grenville 
Collins and a few others had made surveys on the 
English coasts, and their results had been published as 
a private speculation. Similar work had been done 
on the coasts of India, as will be seen in the next 
chapter ; but as yet there was no systematic plan of 
operations with regard to marine surveys. 

Besides the study of the history of geographical 
discovery, which he continued with such assiduity 
until he became a perfect master of the knowledge 
that was accessible in his time, Major Rennell watched 
all contemporary efforts with the keenest interest, 
both for the examination of inland regions and for the 
discovery and survey of coasts and islands. His 
friend Dalrymple's translations made him acquainted 
with the earlier work of Spanish navigators in the 
Pacific, and no one who was not on board — not Dr. 
Hawksworth himself — had a more intimate knowledge 
of the more recent voyages of circumnavigation by 
Anson and Byron, WalKs and Carteret, Bourganville 
and Entrecasteaux, and especially of the voyages of 
Captain Cook. The voyage of Anson had a peculiar 
interest for Major Rennell, because his old captain, 
Hyde Parker, was a master's mate on board the 
Centurion; and his intimacy with its commander 
gave him a similar interest in the voyage of Wallis. 

Rennell's special knowledge enabled him to throw 
light on the authorship of the history of Anson's 
voyage, which bears the name of Mr. Richard Walter, 


the chaplain, whose widow claimed the work as that 
of her husband. The schoolmaster, Mr. Pascoe 
Thomas, also published a journal of the voyage of the 
Centurion in 1745. But the real author of the larger 
work attributed to the chaplain was an engineer 
officer on board, named Robins. Major Rennell 
observed, in a letter to a friend:^ " I forgot to say, in 
defence of Anson's voyage, that a second volume, 
containing the nautical observations, was written and 
approved by Lord Anson. But Colonel Robins, being 
huiTied oft* to India as Engineer-General, took the 
manuscript with him to revise and correct, very con- 
trary to Anson's desire. Robins died not long after, 
at Fort St. David, and the manuscript could never 
be found." 

By his thorough mastery of geographical literature, 
both as regards the history of the progress of discovery 
and of cartography in the past, and the details of all 
current events and proceedings, Rennell made himself 
the highest authority in Europe in a very few years 
after his return from India, his fame as an able and 
intrepid explorer and surveyor having preceded him. 
He also took up the thread of the scientific treatment 
of geography where it had been dropped by his illus- 
trious French predecessors. In earlier times the 
critical and philosophic method of treatment had not 
been brought to bear either on the preparation of 
maps or on the study of geographical questions. In- 
formation was recorded, additions were placed on maps 
as new discoveries were made known, but with less of 
that critical weighing of evidence which was necessary 
before geography could be restored to the position 

* Barrow's " Life of Anson," p.. 7. 


of a progressive science: a position which it un- 
doubtedly held in antiquity, in the days of Strabo 
and of Ptolemy. Such a spirit is partially visible 
in the work of Ortelius and Mercator ; but after their 
time the map-makers, especially in England, became 
mere uncritical compilers. * If they had worked with 
knowledge and intelligence, Baffin's Bay would never 
have disappeared, and the peninsula of California 
on Elizabethan maps would never have been 
converted into an island on those of Queen Anne. 
Yet Major Kennell has a good word for Moll, the 
English map-maker of Queen Anne's time. He refers 
to him as a cartographer " whose works we are too 
apt to contemn." 

Even in France, during the seventeenth century, 
the leading geographers show no very great advance. 
The foremost in that period was Nicolas Sanson, 
who was born at Abbeville, of one of the most dis- 
tinguished families of Ponthieu, in 1600, and who died 
at Paris in 1667. He wrote Latin dissertations on 
geography, began a map of Gaul at a very early age, 
and was appointed geographer to the king in 1627. 
Sanson produced a map of France in ten folio sheets, 
a map of the course of the Rhine, and a large map of 
Africa in 1656. His eldest son, Nicolas, gallantly 
rescued the Chancellor Seguier from the fury of the 
people during the Fronde, and escorted him, sword 
in hand, until, at the Pont Neuf, he received a shot 
from a musket, and died next day. But the two 
other sons had longer lives. Their names were 
Adrien and Guillaume Sanson. Both were geo- 
graphers to the king, and they revised and re-edited 
many of their father's works. The youngest sur- 
vived until 1708. In the productions of the elder 


Sanson there are certainly signs of the spirit which 
actuated Orteliiis and Mercator, and which is want- 
ing in his English contemporaries. At all events, 
he and his work form the dividing line between the 
uncritical compilers of an earlier time and the 
period of scientific treatment* which was at hand. 
There was an epoch, lasting several centuries, when 
nothing was done by geographers beyond the slow 
collection of materials and the study of Ptolemy's 
astronomical geography, distilled through such works 
as Sacroboscos "De Sphsera'* and Pierre D'Ailly. 
Then there came an exciting period of discovery, 
when maps were made mainly for practical use on 
board ship, or compiled, with little or no discrimina- 
tion, for more general use, and when great attention 
was given to instruments and other apparatus 
necessary for navigation. This wonderful and ro- 
mantic age — the age of the Renaissance — bore rich 
fruit in its geographical and in other aspects. Its 
far-reaching results were illustrated by the great 
map drawn by Mercator for the Duke of Cleves, and 
later by the map (probably by Wright) which was 
used to accompany some of the copies of Hakluyt's 
voyages, and which was described by Shakespeare 
as " the New Map with the augmentation of the 
Indies." Sanson the elder was bom in the year 
that this map appeared. Nothing better was pro- 
duced in England, of purely English birth, during 
the following century. But Sanson and his com- 
peers certainly made some advances both in the 
art of cartography and in the science of geography, 
and prepared the way for the more judicious and 
critical methods which had for their chief exponents, 
in the first half of the eighteenth century, those 


eminent successors of the Sansons, Delisle and 

The father of the first of these great geographers 
was Claude DelLsle, who was born at Vaucouleurs, 
near Toul, in 1644. He studied at the University 
of Pont a Mousson, and eventually went to Paris, 
where he gave lessons in history. DeHsle ^)ere was 
the author of an introduction to geography and of 
a historical work on the Kingdom of Siam (1684), 
which reminds us of the connection attempted to 
be formed between France and that State as far 
back as the time of Louis XV., and even earlier. 
Guillaume Delisle filsy the great geographer, was 
bom at Paris in 1675, was educated by his father, 
and became first geographer to the king. Young 
Delisle, like Kennell, was enthusiastically fond of 
geography from his childhood At the age of nine 
he drew maps to illustrate ancient history; and 
when quite a young man he conceived a plan of 
re-forming and re-constructing the system of geo- 
graphy, which he matured in his twenty-fifth year. 
His map of Europe appeared in 1700, and two 
years afterwards he was admitted to the Academy 
in recognition of his great merit as a cartographer. 
His industry was on a par with his abiUty, and he 
published upwards of a hundred maps. Guillaume 
Delisle died in January, 1726. Delisle had been 
devoted to his science since boyhood ; he was a 
man of untiring industry, and at the same time an 
original thinker. He finally cast aside all Ptolemaic 
trammels, and struck out a line for himself, seeking 
out information from every possible source, care- 
fully combining and harmonising his materials, and 
making sure that there was good reason for every 

78 d'anville. 

change he made and every position he adopted 
from older work. He was the first to restore 
geography to the position of a true science, by the 
adoption of scientific modes of thought and accurate 
reasonings in the treatment of all the geographical 
data, new or old, that came before him. Delisle 
and his successor may justly be considered, in a 
scientific sense, as the founders of modern geography. 
D'Anville may, therefore, be looked upon as a 
disciple of Delisle; and this illustrious man of 
science carried his predecessor's exact methods to a 
higher perfection, while his long life enabled him 
to achieve great results. Jean Baptiste Bourguignon 
D'Anville was born at Paris in 1697, and was the 
son of Hubert Bourguignon by Charlotte Vaugon. 
When he was twelve years of age a map accidentally 
fell into his hands which interested him, and gave 
him a turn for geography. As a boy, he drew 
maps of the countries mentioned by the Latin 
writers he was studying, and this taste for drawing 
maps became a passion. He was a great reader; 
but he read poetry and history only to study the 
positions of the places that were mentioned. His 
whole soul was wrapped up in his love for geo- 
graphy. He loved it, not only because it helped 
to satisfy his devouring curiosity, but chiefly as a 
science to be honoured, and to which all the ability 
he possessed might be freely given. Before D'Anville 
had reached the age of twenty- two he was ap- 
pointed geographer to the King of France. In the 
conversation of learned men he improved his habit 
of judicious criticism, and acquired scientific methods 
of thought which specially fitted him for his great 
mission ; for it surely was a great mission to 

d'anville. 79 

examine with critical and discerning eye the whole 
system of the geography of that day: to go over 
the map of each region, judicially examining all 
the data, rejecting some, modifying some, accepting 
others, all on strictly scientific principles. It has 
been thought that D'Anville was sometimes too 
strict in erasing materials which did not seem to 
him to be based on sufficient authority. On his 
map of Africa a clean sweep was made of many of 
the numerous names coming down, in an uncertain 
way, from Edrisi and Leo Africanus, and in part 
from Pigafetta and the Portuguese, and of all the 
uncertain details. If this was a fault, it was a fault 
in the right direction, and left nothing to confuse 
or mislead the future discoverer. D'Anville pub- 
lished upwards of 210 maps and charts, and made 
an immense collection of geographical documents, 
which were acquired by the French Government in 
1779. One of the most important studies of 
D'Anville was undertaken to settle the length of 
the measurements of the ancients. His " Geographic 
Ancienne," in three volumes, came out between 
1768 and 1782; and his maps, " Orbis veteribus 
notus " and " Orbis Romanus," previously. D'Anville 
died, at the age of eighty-five, in January, 1782: the 
very year that Rennell commenced the second part 
of his geographical life as an author, the first part 
having been devoted to marine surveying, and to 
field work of a most difficult and arduous nature. 
D'Anville had had no such training. He was 
simply a Parisian student all his life. But Rennell 
looked up to him as the father of scientific geo- 
graphy, disagreed in his conclusions with diffidence, 
and always spoke of him with the greatest respect. 

80 d'apres. 

He said: "If M. D'Anville is not always right, he 
is for the most part nearer to being so than others." ^ 

The work of Gosselin on the geography of the 
ancients was also of great service to Kennell in 
completing his own studies, to fit him to be a 
worthy successor of D'Anville, and to make him 
competent to identify himself with the same scien- 
tific methods. 

There was another French worthy to whom 
Rennell was greatly indebted, and one for whom he 
probably had a warmer feeling of sympathy than 
for D'Anville, though not greater admiration and 
respect ; for M. D'Apres was a sailor and a surveyor. 
Son of a captain in the French East India Com- 
pany's service, Jean Baptiste Nicolas Denis D'Apres 
de Mannevillette — to give him all his names — was 
born at Havre in 1707. When he was only twelve 
years of age he made his first voyage to India with 
his father, and was afterwards sent to study mathe- 
matics and geometry at Paris. In 1726 he again 
embarked as an officer in one of the French 
company's ships, and, like Rennell, was devoted to 
marine surveying and to topography from first 
going to sea. He corrected numerous positions in 
the Eastern seas, and was the first Frenchman to 
use Hadley's quadrant. From 1735 to 1742 he 
was constructing corrected charts, and in 1745 he 
published his " Neptune Orientale," with sailing 
directions. M. D'Apres was in the habit of taking 
lunars for his longitudes. In 1749 he was captain 
of the GlorieuXy and took the Abb6 La Caille to 
the Cape. He was a correspondent of Alexander 

« <( 

Herodotus," II., p. 436. 


Dalrymple, and his work in the East Indies was of 
great use to Rennell in the construction of his Map 
of Hindostan. D'Apres died childless in 1780. 

When Rennell commenced his literary labours, 
in 1780, he at once began to study all accessible 
geographical works with great assiduity, until, after 
a few years, he had acquired a profound knowledge 
of a subject which, in its more active aspects, had 
employed and interested him from boyhood. He 
never ceased from these studies during his lifetime, 
and he eventually became the greatest of living 
geographers. He brought reasoning and critical 
powers of a high order to bear on the questions 
which came before him; and it was his highest 
merit to have appreciated and followed the methods 
of Delisle and of D'Anville, sometimes differing from 
their conclusions, generally agreeing, but always 
working out his geographical problems on the same 
scientific principles. 




When Major Rennell established himself at No. 23, 
Suffolk Street, with his wife and three little children, 
he found that many old friends in India had re- 
turned before him. His old messmate, Topham, 
lived in Queen Street, Berkeley Square. His Dacca 
friends, Kelsall, Hugh Inglis, Dr. Russell, and his 
brother-in-law Harris, were all in England, and 
often in London. His wife's connection was very 
numerous, but he soon acquired many new friends 
of his own among the scientific and literary men 
who formed a most agreeable society in those days, 
and met frequently at each other's houses. Rennell 
was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society on March 
8th, 1781, and an intimacy soon sprang up between 
him and the President, Sir Joseph Banks. They 
were nearly the same age; but while Banks was 
devoted chiefly to botany and natural history, and 
Rennell to geography, they both took a catholic in- 
terest in general science. Banks was a country 
gentleman of Lincolnshire, with a large fortune, and 
he was an extensive traveller. He had been to 
Newfoundland with Captain Phipps, to Iceland with 
Dr. Solander, and he accompanied Captain Cook on 
his first voyage round the world. He became Pre- 
sident of the Royal Society in 1778, and was 

rennell's learned friends. 83 

created a baronet in 1781. He was a near neighbour 
of Major Rennell, his house in Soho Square being 
the resort of all the leading literary and scientific 
men of the day. 

Rennell joined the Royal Society at a time of 
great trouble. When Sir Joseph became President, 
he found that the secretaries were in the habit of 
assuming presidential functions, and that there were 
other abuses which he determined to correct. There 
were many stormy meetings, which ended in the 
resignation of Dr. Hutton, the Foreign Secretary. 
Dr. Horsley (afterwards Bishop of St. Davids) 
was the leader of the malcontents, and increased 
the acrimonious character of the dispute by 
speeches of extreme bitterness. Dr. Horsley and 
other dissentient Fellows at last left the Society, 
when harmony was restored, and the ascendancy of 
Sir Joseph was never again questioned. The dispute 
appears to have resolved itself into a question 
whether the mathematical element was to maintain 
complete ascendancy ; while Sir Joseph, although 
himself a naturaUst, intended to keep a fair balance 
between the sciences. Rennell took no part in this 
controversy, and retained friendly relations with 
those engaged on both sides. Dr. Hutton was a 
very eminent mathematician, and Bishop Horsley 
was the editor of the works of Sir Isaac Newton, 
and after holding the see of St. Davids, was Bishop 
of Rochester and Dean of Westminster until 1802. 
He was a man of great intellectual force, but 
irritable and dictatorial. 

It was through Dr. Horsley that Rennell became 
acquainted with Dr. Vincent, the Head Master of 
Westminster, and afterwards successor to Horsley 
F 2 

84 rennell's learned friends. 

as Dean. They had many of their tastes in common; 
and the author of the " Voyage of Nearchus " and 
the " Periplus of the Erythraean Sea," welcomed an 
intimacy with a sailor who had made surveys on 
the Indian Ocean, and in whose pursuits and ideas 
the accomplished Dean had so much in which he 
could sympathise. Among his other intimate friends, 
who were also neighbours, were Sir Everard Home 
and Dr. John Hunter the great physicians, Alex- 
ander Dalrymple the hydrographer, and William 
Marsden the historian of Sumatra and editor of 
'* Marco Polo " ; and Lord Spencer and Lord Mom- 
ington (afterwards Marquis Wellesley) in later years. 
Another very intimate friend was Dr. John Gillies, 
the Historiographer of Scotland, who, like Sir 
Joseph Banks, was a neighbour, and nearly of the 
same age. He had a house in Portman Square; 
and although he did not become historiographer 
until after the death of Dr. Robertson, in 1793, he 
was always devoted to literary pursuits, especially 
to the study of classical history, and had many 
tastes in common with Major Rennell. He was a 
good scholar, and, like Rennell, was an indefatigable 
reader, but was without the spark of genius and 
the critical insight which distinguished his friend. 
His " History of Greece," which was much in vogue 
in the end of the last century, first appeared in 
1786, and was followed by a history of the world 
from Alexander to Augustus, and a view of the 
reign of Frederick II. of Prussia. He also trans- 
lated Aristotle's " Ethics " and " Politics," with notes. 
Dr. Gillies survived his friend Rennell, and died, at 
the age of ninety, in 1836. Besides Dr. Gillies, 
many distinguished men of letters and of science 


who resided in London, and numerous others, soon 
began to seek the acquaintance of the great geo- 
grapher ; while the house in Suffolk Street was a 
place of meeting for eminent Indians and for 
travellers in all parts of the world. 

With these surroundings Major Rennell com- 
menced his first great literary work, and the con- 
struction of the first approximately correct map of 
India. The map was accompanied by a memoir, 
containing a full account of the plan on which it 
was executed, and of his authorities. The first 
edition, dedicated to Sir Joseph Banks, was pub- 
lished in 1783, the map consisting of two large 
sheets on a scale of one inch to a degree, with 146 
pages of letterpress. The second edition of 1788 
was considerably enlarged ; and the memoir for the 
third edition, which appeared in 1793, consisted of 
604 pages, the scale of the map, in four sheets, 
being extended to an inch and a half to a degree. 

It was an important undertaking. Renneirs 
plan was, following the principles of D'Anville, to 
coUect all the information that was accessible to 
him, to discuss all the details with the greatest 
care, bringing all the acumen of a thoroughly logical 
mind to bear on the decision of each doubtful 
point, and to give reasons for his decisions, and a 
full account of his authorities in the memoir. In 
the last edition he included the region between the 
head waters of the Indus and the Caspian. The 
work at once secured its just place in the world's 
estimation, and it was many years before it was 
superseded by the more accurate trigonometrical 
survey. The map was of special value at the time 
it was published, supplying a want that was much 


felt. Kennell himself wrote — "Now that we are 
engaged either in wars, alliances, or negotiations, 
with all the principal powers of India, and have 
displayed the British standard from one end of it 
to the other, a map of Hindostan, such as will ex- 
plain the local circumstances of our political con- 
nections and the marches of our armies, cannot but 
be highly interesting to every person whose imagin- 
ation has been struck by the splendour of our 
victories, or whose attention is roused by the present 
critical state of our affairs in that quarter of the 

The first, and perhaps the most congenial, part 
of Renneirs task was the more correct delineation 
of the coast-line of India ; and here he found much 
valuable assistance and many helpful coadjutors. 
First and foremost was his never-failing friend, the 
Hydrographer to the East India Company. Alex- 
ander Dalrymple was the seventh child of Sir James 
Dalrymple, of New Hailes, and was born in 1737, 
being thus five years older than Rennell. He went 
out as a writer to Madras in 1752, and in 1759 he 
was sent on a voyage to the eastern islands. Surely 
there must be something \^ry attractive to intelh- 
gent youths in hydrography and marine surveying. 
Dalrymple also became an enthusiast for this branch 
of work; and when he went home on leave in 1765 
he published several of the charts and plans he 
had collected. In 1776 he went back to Madras as 
a Member of Council, and finally returned home in 
1777. There was some idea of giving Dalrymple the 
command of the expedition which was more wisely 
entrusted to the illustrious Cook, but in the same 
year the Madras civilian received the appointment 


of the East India Company's Hydrographer. 
In 1795 he also became the first Hydrographer of 
the Admu-alty: a post which he held until within 
a few months of his death, in 1808. In 1770 
Dalrymple published his " Historical Collection of 
Voyages in the Pacific," containing translations 
from the Spanish of great value. He made a pro- 
digious collection of charts and plans of harbours 
and coasts in India and other parts of the 
East. In three volumes belonging to the library of 
the Royal Geographical Society there are fifty-eight 
charts, 740 plans, and fifty-seven views, all engraved 
by Dalrymple, besides fifty nautical memoirs; and 
these are but a fraction of his collections: there 
are also two folio volumes of his charts at the 
India Office ; so that he was the great repository 
of hydrographic knowledge, and his information and 
cordial assistance were ever at the service of his 
friend and colleague, Rennell. 

There were also three or four marine surveyors 
who had been bred as sailors, and were ready with 
their help. Of these, John Ritchie was employed 
from 1770 to 1785 in surveying the coast of the 
Bay of Bengal and the outlets of the Ganges. 
Many of his charts were engraved by Dalrymple, 
and there is a manuscript volume of his remarks 
at the India Office. Another surveyor of those 
days was, like D'Apres, Rennell, and Dalrymple, an 
enthusiastic hydrographer from his boyhood. This 
was Joseph Huddart, the son of a shoemaker at 
AUenby, in Cumberland, and almost an exact con- 
temporary of Rennell, having been born in 1741. 
He began his sea life in the herring fishery, and 
from the first he showed a very remarkable natural 


talent for surveying and chart-drawing. Gradually 
working his way up in the world, Huddart was at 
last able to build his own ship and make voyages 
to the East. It was then that the East India 
Company secured his services as a marine surveyor 
and draughtsman from 1774 to 1790. He fixed the 
longitude of Bombay by eclipses of Jupiter's satel- 
lites, and his observations for latitude and longitude 
along the coast of Malabar were of great use to 
Major Rennell in correcting that coast-line. Captain 
Huddart eventually became a director of the East 
India Company, and died in 1816. Captain Michael 
Topping made a chart of the Bay of Bengal in 
1788 ; in 1790 he was employed to make a survey 
of the Godavari River : a service which he performed 
most creditably; and in 1792 he was taking obser- 
vations for determining the course of the currents 
in the Bay of Bengal. He died of fever at Masuli- 
patam in 1796, where there is a monument to his 
memory, with a Latin inscription. Another surveyor, 
whose romantic adventures are related in my 
" Memoir of the Indian Surveys " was Captain 
McCluer, who did some good work in the direction of 
the Persian Gulf in 1787, and on the west coast of 
India. The coast-line of Tinnevelly was adopted 
from the survey of Colonel Call, and Colonel Pearse 
furnished correct positions from Balasore to Madras. 
For improved delineations of the islands Rennell 
was indebted to Captain Ritchie for the Andamans, 
and to the " Neptune Orientale " of D'Apres for the 
Maldives and Laccadives. With the help of these 
various authorities, Rennell was enabled to draw the 
coast-line of India with an accuracy such as had 
never been approached before. 


For the divisions of Hindostan Major Rennell 
adopted the Subahs, or provinces during the time of 
the Emperor Akbar, as defined in the Ayin Akbari. 
This valuable work, since translated by Blockmann, 
was not then accessible in a translated form, although 
such an undertaking had been announced by Mr. 
Gladwin, under the auspices of Warren Hastings. 
Major Rennell, therefore, obtained aid from Mr. 
Boughton Rouse, who translated the passages he 
required from the Ayin Akbari. The decision to 
divide the map of Hindostan primarily into the 
Subahs of Akbar was certainly judicious. Akbar's 
reign was exactly contemporaneous with that of our 
great Queen, overlapping it for a few years at the 
beginning and at the end. It was the period of 
the greatest prosperity and highest civilisation for 
Muhammadan India; and the divisions for the ad- 
ministrative purposes so well described by Akbar's 
famous minister, Abul Fazl, are of the greatest 
historical interest. But there were still stronger 
reasons for showing these divisions on the new map. 
The Subahdars, in some instances, formed independ- 
ent kingdoms when the Mogul Empire fell to 
pieces, while the Subahs were long recognised as 
political divisions : a knowledge of which was useful 
even in Rennell's time. Later political divisions, 
such as the territories of the Mahratta chiefs and 
of Hyder Ali, were also shown on the map. 

D'Anville's map of India had appeared in 1757, 
and it is very interesting to examine the points on 
which D'Anville and Rennell are not in agreement. 
Both applied the same methods of criticism to the 
maps and the information that was before them, 
and their differences aroso from Rennell possessing 

90 d'anville and rennell. 

more recent materials, while he no doubt had a 
great advantage, because his training was not con- 
fined to the study, but was mainly based on opera- 
tions in the field. 

One point of disagreement was respecting the 
position of Palibothra, the ancient capital of the 
Buddhist kingdom in the Ganges Valley. D'Anville 
placed it at the junction of the two rivers Jumna 
and Ganges, near the present city of Allahabad. 
Rennell, with a better knowledge of the ground, 
and by comparing actual distances with those he 
found in Pliny, saw that Pataliputra (the Pahbothra 
of the Greeks) could not have been at the junction 
of the Ganges and Jumna, but that it must 
have been some distance lower down the Ganges. 
He placed it at Canouj, near Patna. 

D'Anville*s ground for his conclusion was that 
Palibothra was said to be at the junction of a large 
river with the Ganges, and because, according to 
Pliny, the Jomanes (Jumna) traversed the country 
of Palibothra. Rennell objected to this argument 
that Pliny, in another passage, assigned for the 
place of Palibothra a spot 425 Roman miles below 
the confluence of the Jumna when giving the dis- 
tances of places between the Indus and the mouth 
of the Ganges. Using these distances, Rennell 
placed Palibothra at Canouj, near the confluence of 
the Calini, or Kalli-nadi, and the Ganges. He did 
not doubt that some very large city stood in the 
position which Pliny assigned to Palibothra, and 
inclined to think that this city was on the site of 
Patna, though he supposes the true Palibothra to 
be Canouj, which is below Patna and near the town 
of Barr, on the right bank of the Ganges. 

d'anville and rennell. 91 

Now, the result of the most recent researches 
proves that D'Anville was quite wrong, and that 
Rennell had the correct clue in his hand and was 
very nearly right. Mr. Waddell has, within the last 
few years, supplied conclusive evidence that the site 
of Pataliputra, the famous capital of the great 
Emperor Asoka, was at Patna. Rennell was the 
first to point out that the Son River, or one of its 
main branches, formerly joined the Ganges immedi- 
ately below the modern city of Patna. Mr. Waddell 
has shown that Pataliputra was on a site on the 
neck of land between the old course of the Son 
and the Ganges. The account of Megasthenes, the 
ambassador of Seleucus Nicator, as preserved in 
Strabo, is that Palibothra, which he visited in 312 
B.C., was on the south bank of the Ganges, at the 
confluence of another large river called the Errano- 
boas, which is identified with the Son by Sir 
William Jones. About five centuries from Asoka's 
time Palibothra ceased to be the capital of the 
Magadhan kings ; it was a seat of learning at the 
time of the visit of Fa Hian, the first of the Chinese 
pilgrims, but when the second pilgrim, Huien 
Tsiang, was there, in 635 A.D., it had been long 
deserted, and was a mass of crumbling ruins. In 
the time of Akbar the town of Patna became the 
largest in the province, and the Buddhist relics of 
Pataliputra were gradually buried in the dihris of 
many centuries. Mr. Waddell published the inter- 
esting narrative of the discovery of the ruins of the 
principal edifices of Palibothra at Calcutta in 1892. 

Another point of disagreement between D'Anville 
and Rennell had reference to the course of the 
Tibetan River Sanpu. It is shown on the map of 


Tibet drawn from surveys made under the auspices 
of the Jesuits, and afterwards published by Du 
Halde. Bogle, who was sent on a mission to the 
Teshu Lama in 1774 by Warren Hastings, crossed 
the Sanpu twice. He cleared up a few points, but 
he was not a surveyor, took no bearings, and ob- 
served for no latitudes. The mighty chains of the 
Himalayas, separating the valleys of the Sanpu and 
the Ganges, were called the Tartarian Mountains 
when Rennell first saw them in the course of his 
survey, and in the memoir he speaks of them as 
a continuation of the Emodus and Paropamisus 
Mountains of the ancients, called by the Tibetans 
" Rimola.'' On the map, however, the name Hima- 
laya appears, and the mountains are spoken of as 
equal in height to any mountains of the old 
hemisphere. The Sanpu was known from the map 
in Du Halde, and from the testimony of Bogle and 
Turner, to flow eastward, to form an affluent of 
some great river emptying itself into the sea. 
D'Anville held that the Sanpu was a tributary of 
the Irawadi. But Rennell, after considering every 
point bearing on this difficult question, and with 
truer geographical insight, came to the conclusion 
that the Sanpu pierced the Himalayas, and, as the 
Dihong, flowed into the Brahmaputra. This was 
long a vexed question. Mr. Gordon, who was em- 
ployed on the survey of the Irawadi in later times, 
adopted the view of D'Anville ; but the great 
weight of authority is on the other side, and now 
there is practically no doubt that Rennell was 
right, and that the Sanpu is a tributary of the 

In these two instances of the site of Palibothra 

d'anville and rennell. 93 

and the course of the Sanpu, the critical judgment 
of Rennell was superior to that of D'Anville. Both 
were the most eminent geographers of their re- 
spective times, and both used similar methods in 
considering questions relating to geographical sub- 
jects. The difference between these two eminent 
men was that while one was a student from his 
boyhood, the other had been a surveyor on active 
service by sea and land for nearly a quarter of a 
century before he commenced his literary career 
No doubt this experience in the field had an im- 
portant influence in guiding the student to accurate 
judgments in after life, and in giving him an insight 
which was not possessed by the life-long worker within 
the four walls of his study. The conclusion is that 
to form a perfect geographer long experience in the 
field as an explorer or a surveyor must be combined 
with the close and deep study of a man of letters. 
Major Rennell possessed both these essential quali- 
fications ; and while making himself acquainted with 
the authorities of former ages, he himself had the 
power to decide questions on his own authority. 
He, too, had traversed wild and uninhabited forests, 
had followed the courses of unknown rivers, and 
had measured vast regions before unmapped, and 
in the course of this work he had acquired an in- 
sight, and indeed an instinct, which no mere scholar 
could ever hope to possess. 

In the delineation of the provinces of Hindostan, 
Rennell had his own careful and elaborate survey 
for Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa. He used the Persian 
map of Sir R. Baker for the names — which were 
translated for him by Major Davy — in the Indus 
Basin, Rajputana, and the Punjab, adding other 


names, obtained from the Ayin Akbari, Ferishta, 
and Sherrif-u-din. He also studied the routes of 
the several invaders of India, and adopted the 
details in Kashmir, and the route from Ajmir to 
Jesalmir from D'Anville's map. 

In Central India and the vast region from the 
Ganges to the Kistna, Kennell trusted to the 
marches of M. Bussy, to information from Colonel 
Camac respecting the roads between Bengal and 
the Deccan, to details of the march of General 
Goddard from Calpi to Surat, and to the routes 
of Captain Price. He referred to the earlier 
journeys of Bernier and Tavernier, and from this 
part of his work he also derived occasional assist- 
ance from D'Anville's map. The groundwork of his 
map for the country south of the Kistna was de- 
rived from the map in Orme's work, part of which 
was based on the surveys of Colonel Call. Rennell 
also had the use of Mr. Montresor's manuscript 
map at the India House, and derived further de- 
tails from the marches of Colonel FuUerton in 
Coimbatore, and of other oflScers during the wars 
with Hyder Ali and Tipu. 

In the last edition of his map, Major Rennell 
was enabled to add valuable geographical details 
respecting the country between India and the 
Caspian Sea from the information brought home by 
Mr. Forster, which was communicated to him by 
Lord Mulgrave. Forster afterwards published his 
travels in two volumes, and they formed the best 
authority for that region until the appearance of 
the works of Sir John Malcolm and the memoir 
of Kinneir. 

There were two other friends whose judicious 


advice and ever-ready assistance were of great help 
to Major Rennell in the execution of his famous 
map of Hindostan. Mr. Wilkins went out to Bengal 
in the Civil Service in 1770, and devoted himself 
to the study of the Sanscrit language. He trans- 
lated a version of the Bhagavat Gita, to which 
Warren Hastings prefixed a dissertation, the whole 
being published by the Court of Directors in 1783. 
Returning to England in 1786, Wilkins made a 
translation of Sakontala in 1795, and published a 
Sanskrit grammar in 1808. He became Librarian 
at the India House in 1800, and when in extreme 
old age he was knighted by William IV. Sir 
Charles Wilkins died at his house in Baker Street, 
aged eighty-six, in May, 1836. 

Rennell's other helpful friend, while he was en- 
gaged upon his map of Hindostan, was the son-in- 
law of Sir Charles Wilkins. WilUam Marsden was 
an Irishman from Wicklow, and was educated at 
Trinity College, Dublin. He obtained a writership 
at Bencoolen, in Sumatra, and sailed from Gravesend 
in 1770. After eight years of service he became 
Secretary to Government, returning to England in 
1779, where he established an East India agency, 
with his brother John, in Gower Street. Marsden 
was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1783, 
became a Vice-President, and often presided at the 
meetings. He was also Second Secretary to the 
Admiralty from 1795 to 1807, retiring with a pen- 
sion of £1,500 a year, which he afterwards resigned. 
Author of the " History of Sumatra," of a Malay 
grammar and dictionary, and of the Numismata 
Orientalia, and editor of the travels of Marco Polo, 
Marsden held a good position as a leading man of 


letters. He was popular, and possessed conversa- 
tional powers of a high order, and was generally to 
be met at Sir Joseph Banks's philosophical break- 
fasts in Soho Square. Marsden lived to be a 
founder of the Raleigh Club, the precursor of the 
Royal Geographical Society, and survived until 1838. 

Wilkins and Marsden were constant in their 
helpful advice ; while Mr. Beasley and Sir Hugh 
Inglis among the directors, Mr. Sulivan of Madras, 
Mr. Callander of Bombay, and many others, were 
ever ready with their local knowledge. In 1781 
Major Rennell had communicated a paper giving an 
account of the rivers Ganges and Brahmaputra to 
the Royal Society, which afterwards formed an ap- 
pendix to his memoir on the map of Hindostan. 
He also wrote a paper for the Philosophical Trans- 
actions, "on the rate of travelling by camels," and 
one on " the marches of the British army in Central 
India in 1790-91." 

For his work respecting India, Major Rennell 
was adjudged the Copley Medal of the Royal 
Society in 1791 ; and the President, Sir Joseph 
Banks, in his address, thus gave his estimate of the 
value of that work : — 

** I should rejoice could I say that Britons, fond as they are 
of being considered by surrounding nations as taking the lead 
in scientific improvements, could boast a general map of their 
island as well executed as Major Rennell's delineation of 
Bengal and Bahar : a tract of country considerably larger in 
extent than the whole of Great Britain and Ireland ; but it 
would be injustice to the Major's industry were I not here to 
state that the districts he has perambulated and planned ex- 
ceed, probably, in extent the whole tract of surveyed country 
to be found in the maps of the European kingdoms put together. 


while the accuracy of his particular surveys stands yet un- 
rivalled by the most laborious performance of the best county 
maps this nation has hitherto been able to produce." * 

The map of Hindostan, with the memoir, at 
once established Rennell's fame as a geographer and 
a man of letters. The " Copley Medal " was a 
greater honour than anything the Government 
could confer, and he was treated by the scientific 
and literary men with whom he chiefly lived with 
a diffidence and respect which must have shown 
him how highly his meritorious services were ap- 
preciated by those whose opinions were most 
valuable. This is also observable in the conduct of 
the Court of Directors, and from this time Major 
Rennell, sometimes in conjunction with Dalrymple, 
became their adviser in all questions relating to 
geography and marine surveying 

In September, 1791, the Major was requested by 
the Court to examine and report upon a map of 
Hindostan in thirteen parts, drawn in India by 
Colonel Call, who had been a successor to Rennell 
as Surveyor-General of Bengal, and was then dead. 
Rennell was unable to recommend that it should 
be engraved, because it was not by any means up 
to date. It did not contain the various route 
surveys of Captain Rejmolds, those of Captain 
Beetson, nor the marine surveys of McCluer and 
Topping. These materiaLs had reached the India 
House, and some of them were included on pub- 
lished maps, but none of them could be found on that 
of Colonel Call. Valuable new materials were aLso 

* Given by Baron Walchenaor in his eloge. 


immediately expected from India ; so that Colonel 
Call's map would be obsolete before the engraving 
was completed. Major Rennell's duty to the Court 
obhged him further to point out that there was no 
history of the construction of the map, nor state- 
ment of the comparative value of the different 
materials that were used. Outside actual surveys, 
" much the greatest proportion of the materials 
nuist rest on the foundation of judgment or 
opinion. We have no means of discriminating their 
value, or of knowing how far the positions tjiat lie 
outside the surveys depend on the coincidences of 
lines of distance and bearings, or whether regulated 
by observations for latitude or otherwise. In this 
respect the matter can only be compared to a long 
and intricate account, without vouchers or explana- 
tion. This defect may, however, be remedied by 
sending for the original papers themselves." 
Colonel Call's map was never engraved, and I 
believe that it is now lost. 

Another question of importance was submitted 
by the Court of Directors for Major Renneirs 
opinion, having reference to some proposals made 
by General Roy for geodetic experiments to be 
made in the East Indies, with an account of the 
mode proposed to be followed in the trigonometrical 
operation for determining the relative situations of 
the Royal Observatories at Greenwich and Paris, 
and observations on the magnitude and figure of 
the earth. The Court professed itself extremely 
desirous of affording every facility towards the 
success of General Roy's plans and experiments, 
and Major Rennell reported strongly in favour of 
complying with his wishes. General Roy commenced 


the trigonometrical survey of Great Britain and 
Ireland a few years afterwards. The Court of 
Directors consulted Major Rennell on other points 
of a like nature from time to time, and he was 
always their adviser, in conjunction with Dairy mple, 
on matters relating to hydrography. 

The survey of Bengal and Bahar, the " Bengal 
Atlas," and the map of Hindostan, with the memoir, 
represent services such as have seldom been con- 
ferred on a country by one man. They received no 
direct official recognition whatever ; but the author 
was rewarded in a way which, to a man like 
Rennell, was far more acceptable. It consisted in 
the cordial appreciation of his countrymen at home 
and in India, in the respect and esteem which his 
labours at once secured him, in the acknowledg- 
ment made by the Court of Directors in constituting 
him their geographical adviser, and in the honours 
conferred upon him by scientific bodies at home 
and abroad. 

Q 2 



After the completion of his geographical work for 
India — which includes the survey of Bengal and 
Bahar, his " Bengal Atlas," his map of Hindostan, 
and his memoir on the geography of India — Major 
Rennell turned his attention to Western Asia: that 
is, to the portion of that continent between India 
and the Mediterranean. He had conceived a very 
comprehensive scheme for a great work on the 
comparative geography of Western Asia; and his 
geography of Herodotus, only forming a part of the 
whole project, occupied him during many years. 

In those years he continued to live in the 
house at No. 23, Suffolk Street, enjoying much 
domestic happiness with his wife and three 
children. Mrs. Rennell was the main source of this 
happiness. She was beloved by her relations, and 
numerous acts of affection and kindness are re- 
corded of her. In London she was a weekly visitor 
to the poor at Middlesex Hospital. But latterly the 
winters were usually passed at Brighton, and there 
were occasional tours to Wales, when the Menai 
Straits were crossed, and to Scotland, always with 
the children: During one tour in Scotland Major 
Rennell broke his wrist, owing to his horse falling 
with him. Miss Rennell, who was bom at St. 


Helena in October, 1777, grew up to be a very 
handsome girl, and a source of pride and happi- 
ness to her father. The two boys, Thomas and 
William, were very promising scholars. They were 
educated at Dr. Home's school at Chiswick. The 
eldest went thence to Trinity College, Cambridge, 
and was sixth Wrangler in 1801. WiUiam, the 
youngest, entered the Civil Service of the East India 
Company, and was magistrate at Dacca, where his 
father had so long resided. In mentioning those to 
whom he was indebted for assistance, in the preface 
to his geography of Herodotus, Major Rennell 
had great pride in being able to include his two 
young sons. 

The years during which Rennell was engaged 
on his great work relating to Western Asia were 
those which saw the outbreak and mad career of 
the French Revolution. The illustrious geographer 
was always an advanced Liberal in politics, but he 
loved his country's greatness above all things, and 
imbibed a strong feeling of horror for the excesses 
of the French Revolution. He consequently at- 
tached himself to those Liberals, such as Lord 
Spencer and Sir W. Windham, who joined Burke 
in supporting the 'government of Pitt in a war 
policy. He was the author of a pamphlet, in 1794, 
entitled "War with France the only Security of 
Britain," and he expressed his opinions very clearly 
in the dedication of his " Herodotus " to his friend 
Lord Spencer. " Some parts of the work," he 
wrote, "may recall ideas respecting the history and 
policy of those nations of antiquity whose learn- 
mg and arts we are ambitious of imitating, and 
whose liberty is a perpetual theme of praise even 


amongst us who have employed ages in perfecting 
a practical system of our own, which, although 
subject to decay, like all other human institutions, 
promises to be of much longer duration than any 
other on record." He then refers to the liberal 
earl's coalition with Pitt, and to his organisation 
of victory, which led to St. Vincent and the Nile. 
"To preserve this wonderful fabric entire in all its 
parts, your Lordship joined your counsels and 
exertions at a momentous crisis. History will re- 
late the acts of your department; that from the 
Ganges to the Nile, and from the Nile to the 
shores of the sister island, the desperate projects of 
the inveterate enemy of mankind against the safety 
and interests of this empire were totally frustrated." 
Similar thoughts could not fail to arise in the 
mind of this patriotic Englishman and friend of 
Lord Spencer, when the course of his studies of 
Herodotus brought him to the Canopic mouth of 
the Nile. " The classic importance of Canopus," he 
wrote, " is very great, considered either as a place 
visited by the heroes of the Trojan war, as the 
reputed burial-place of the pilot of Menelaus, or 
in respect of the rank it held amongst the cities of 
Egypt. But as some ancient places have been so 
fortunate as to renew their classic importance in 
modern times, as if to ensure the certainty of a 
longer term of celebrity, so Canopus, under the 
modern name of Aboukir, has received a new and 
perhaps a more lasting impression of ' the stamp of 
fate,' by its overlooking, like Salamis, the scene of 
a naval battle which, like that of Salamis, may 
lead to a decision of the fate of Europe. This 
most brilliant victory, achieved solely by Britons, 


Europe felt as her own. To this spot the genius 
of Britain conducted her favourite Nelson, who at 
one blow destroyed the fleet of the enemy, and cut 
ofl" the veteran army of the French from their 

" But what secluded shore of the ocean has not, 
in its turn, reverberated the British thunder? 
During the present struggle, what walls have 
resisted save the wooden walls of Britain? Nor 
shall History, although she delights more to record 
a brilliant victory than the councils that produced 
it, fail to hand down to posterity the name and 
character of the Naval Minister"^ who so success- 
fully directed the great engine of British power! 
Devoted to her service, his country shall claim 
him as her own to the latest times; whilst France 
shall recognise in the descendant of Marlborough 
the hereditary foe to her schemes of ambition and 

In another place Kennell's political reflections, 
suggested by the Grecian resistance to Persian in- 
vasion, breathe the same spirit. " In the history of 
the Persian invasion and its termination, so glorious 
to Greece, Herodotus has given a lesson to all free 
States that either do exist, or may hereafter exist 
in the world, to dispute their independence, let the 
number of their enemies be what it may. jHe has 
shown that the Greeks, although a large proportion 
of their country was in the hand of the enemy, 
were* still formidable, and in the end prevailed over 
a foe that outnumbered them more than three to one 
in the decisive battle of Platsea ; notwithstanding 

* Lord Spencer. 


there were included in that vast majority as many of 
their renegade coimtrjmaen as amounted to nearly 
half their own numbers. The event of the contest 
depended chiefly on the obstinate determination of 
the Greeks not to submit : a resolution which, when 
accompanied by wisdom and discipline, must ever 

" The Dutch acted like free men when they deter- 
mined to defend their last ditch against Louis XTV., 
and, in the last resort, to embark for their foreign 
settlements, as the Phocoeans aforetimes did for 
Corsica. The Anglo-Americans have just displayed 
the same noble sentiments (worthy of their ancestors) 
in treating with equal contempt the proffered friend- 
ship and the threatened enmity of France : France, 
whether monarchical or republican, the common 
enemy of the peace and independence of nations." 

Keferring to the great English colonial empire, he 
wrote : — " In the prospect of future times there is a 
subject for pride in the breasts of Englishmen, which 
is that so vast a portion of the globe will be peopled 
by their descendants. I allude, of course, to America 
and New Holland. The latter alone appears to have 
room enough for as many inhabitants as Europe at 
present contains. That is, at least, beyond the power 
of the French Directory to prevent, for the progress of 
population is too rapid to be opposed by human 
means, and will soon outgrow, in America, that of 
France, with all her conquests and fraternisations. 
The colony of New South Wales, too, will probably 
be able to take care of itself The rising generation 
there is said to be very numerous, and it is pretty 
obvious that on the care of their religion and morals the 
character of the future nation will depend. It ought, 


perhaps, to afford a triumph to literary men to reflect 
that the EngUsh language had received its highest 
degree of improvement before the epoch of our great 
colonisations. He, therefore, who writes in English, 
and whose works descend to posterity, will probably 
have the greatest number of readers. This was, 
perhaps, the case heretofore of him who wrote in 

Major Renneirs political opinions are easy to be 
known from these extracts and from passages in his 
letters. He was a Liberal who sympathised warmly 
with the working classes, and who loved alike the 
independence and freedom of his country and the 
individual liberty enjoyed by his countrymen. He 
was zealous for the glory of England and for her 
rightful position among the nations, while, in com- 
mon with all the best and most patriotic men of his 
generation, his horror of the principles of the French 
Revolution, which seemed to have led to such hideous 
excesses, was slightly exaggerated. He saw things 
with the vivid distinctness of proximity in time and 
space, while we are able to view them calmly and at a 
distance, and to weigh the relative strength of various 
causes which brought about such results. With pro- 
phetic vision Rennell seems to have made a forecast 
of the future greatness of the United States and of 
the Austrahan colonies, and to have anticipated the 
marvellous increase in population and material pro- 
sperity that has since taken place, and the eventual 
predominance of the English language. 

His study of comparative geography was far from 
unfitting him for forming sound judgments on 
poHtical questions. In such times no one could re- 
main indifferent ; and Rennell, who through life had 


taken such a keen and intelligent interest in passing 
events, least of any one. Indeed, his occupations, his 
habit of carefully weighing evidence and of deciding 
between conflicting authorities, his research and ex- 
tensive general knowledge, gave his opinions more 
than usual weight. At the same time, deep and 
intense as was his interest in all that affected the 
welfare and glory of his country, he did not swerve 
from the useful occupations to which he had devoted 
his life. The correction of the ancient and modern 
geography of Western Asia was indeed a serious 
undertaking. This region was alike the great theatre 
of sacred and profane history in ancient times, and of 
modern commerce and communication. Kennell's 
first object was to adapt his system to the use of 
statesmen and travellers ; and his secondary aim was 
to apply it to the illustration of such parts of ancient 
military history as were deficient from the want of 
necessary geographical aids, which have, in some 
degree, been supplied in modern times. 

The first part of the undertaking was his work on 
the geography of Herodotus, forming a complete work 
in itself. The other divisions were intended to be a 
work on ancient geography as it was improved by 
Grecian conquests and establishments, and an atlas of 
ancient geography, each also forming complete works 
in themselves. As regards the first division, he had 
completed his task, so far as his stock of materials 
admitted, by the last year of the last century. The 
first edition of his "Herodotus" was published in 1800. 
The second revised edition was brought out by his 
daughter. Lady Rodd, in 1830. Rennell was not 
acquainted with the Greek language, and could only 
acquire a knowledge of the text of Herodotus by 


means of a translation. He wrote : — "The magnitude 
of this defect will perhaps be diflerently estimated by 
different persons. It may doubtless be said, with 
truth, that no ordinary reader of Greek is likely to be 
so perfect a master of Herodotus through a perusal of 
the original work as by translations made by professed 
scholars who have devoted a great portion of their 
time to the study of it. On the other hand, it must 
be allowed that such scholars, if also skilled in the 
science of geography, would be by far the fittest 
persons to undertake a task of this kind. Such 
an one, however, has not yet undertaken it, and 
therefore the author flatters himself that, in the 
existing state of things, his work may be allowed 
to pass until so desirable a coincidence may take 

The translation used by Major Rennell Avas that 
by Mr. Beloe : the only one in existence at that time. 
Unfortunately, Beloe*s version was very inaccurate; 
and this gives an opportunity for the critic in the 
"Penny Cyclopaedia""^ to bestow the highest praise on 
Rennell. He wrote : " Though obliged to trust to the 
very inaccurate version of Beloe, Major Rennell suc- 
ceeded in producing a commentary on a classical 
author which is not surpassed by the labour of any 
scholar. The blunderings of Beloe, and his occasional 
complete perversion of the original, did not mislead 
the geographer, who could detect the author's mean- 
ing under the disguise of the translation." Another 
writer observed that " Major Rennell only misunder- 
stood Herodotus when Beloe deceived him, and 
frequently, as in the case of the Tower of Belus, he 

* Quoted by Sir Henry Yule. 


found out the meaning of the author in spite of the 
translator " * 

As in his memou' on the map of Hindostan, so in 
his work on Herodotus, Major Eennell received con- 
stant help and critical advice from such friends as 
Dalrymple, Wilkins, Marsden, Gillies, and many 
others. Rennell had selected Herodotus as the best 
exponent of geography in the point of view of a 
starting point, because, as his writings furnish the 
earliest record of history, so they also supply the 
earliest known system of geography, as far as it goes. 
The geographical notices of the father of history are 
scattered throughout his work, always being placed 
where they may best serve to elucidate the parts of 
history to which they respectively belong, and not 
with a view to an abstract system of geography. 
Rennell's plan was to collect all the scattered geo- 
graphical notices in Herodotus into one point of view, 
in order to make them bear on and illustrate each 
other systematically. Herodotus had the advantage of 
having visited the countries he particularly describes. 
His notion was that the known world, consisting of 
Europe, Asia, and Africa, was surrounded by the ocean, 
except towards the east, where he believed there was 
a vast and unexplored desert of unknown extent. On 
some points his knowledge was superior to that of 
writers who lived much later. For instance, Herodotus 
knew that the Caspian was an inland sea ; while, from 
the time of Alexander to that of Ptolemy the geo- 
grapher, the beUef was that the Caspian was a gulf of 
the northern ocean. 

After his introductory observations, Rennell 

* Quarterly Journal of Education^ I., p. 329, 


devoted a chapter to the discussion of the length of 
the itinerary stadium of the Greeks : a most important 
question, upon the correct determination of which the 
whole fabric of arguments and deductions mainly 
depended. It was a subject on which D'Anville had 
already written a learned treatise. Herodotus de- 
scribed the stadium as a measure of 600 Grecian feet, 
or about 600 to a degree. This was the Olympic 
stadium ; but the itinerary stadium used in describing 
routes appears to have been shorter than the Olympic 
stadium. That of Xenophon was 750 to a degree, of 
Strabo 700 to a degree; and Herodotus evidently used 
more than one standard for the itinerary stadium : a 
longer one in Greece and Persia than in Egypt and 
Euxine Scythia. In carefully comparing standards of 
the chief authorities of antiquity, Rennell found that 
the mean of all was 718 stadia to a degree: equal to 
500 English feet. He noticed that the double step 
pace was equal to five feet, and thought it probable that 
the original stadium was a hundred of these paces, or 
500 feet. Herodotus and others probably always in- 
tended the same stadium, but they may have given 
occasion to different results by their having reported 
the numbers on the judgment of different persons.* 

* Colonel Martin Leake, in a paper read before the Geographical 
Society in 1838, fully discussed the stadium as a linear measure. He 
showed that the Attic foot, taken from the stylobate of the Parthenon, 
was equal to 12-1375 English inches, and that the length of the 
stadium was, therefore, 606*875 English feet, or 625 Eoman feet: 
equal to a furlong, or one-eighth of a Roman mile. According to 
Herodotus, the Egyptian cubit was equal to the Samian stade. The 
Egyptian cubic is 20 ^^ English inches, so that the Samian foot would 
be 13| English inches, and the Samian stade equal to 687 English feet. 
There was also a Pergamenian stade of 697 English feet ; but these 
are the only varieties of stades for which any support can be found in 


After showing how very Httle Herodotus knew of 
Western Europe, Rennell enters upon a full discussion 
of the geography of Euxine Scythia from the Danube 
to the Don, and northwards to the Volga, and of the 
march of Darius Hystaspes. Speaking of the ancient 
province of Hyloea, adjacent to the Tauric Chersonese, 
he alludes to the changes in the course of the Borys- 
thenes since the time of Herodotus, as well as the 
coast between the mouth of the Borysthenes and the 
Crimea, referring frequently to such modern authori- 
ties as Baron Tott and Pallas. This is one among 
many striking examples of the vaUie of an ancient 
authority, such as Herodotus, in the study of physical 
geography, by enabUng us to compare the condition 
of a particular region at periods two thousand years 
apart. Another example may be mentioned at the 
Pass of Thermopylae, in comparing the descriptions 
of Herodotus and Colonel Leake. It is true that 
Herodotus, as a rule, does not give particular geo- 
graphical descriptions of countries which are supposed 
to be well known to his readers, but he does so some- 
times; and Major Rennell selects his description of 
Thessaly as one of the most pointed, clear, and concise 

In describing the country of the Budini and Geloni, 
on the Upper Tanais, he identifies it with that of 
Woronez, on the Don, and takes occasion to refer to 
the account given by the traveller Le Brun of a fleet 
built by Peter the Great at Woronez. Rennell formed 
a high estimate of the character of the Czar. " When," 
he wrote, " we reflect on the various personal labours 

ancient history. There would be 600 Greek stades of 600 Greek feet 
to a degree. 


of this truly great prince, all tending to produce either 
an immediate or a remote advantage to his country — 
now enforcing duty by example, now operating the 
direct means of national strength or improvement; 
considering also the unusual means pursued by him 
to obtain the requisite degree of knowledge — we are 
struck with admiration, and cannot help exclaiming, 
with Addison, * Who before him ever left a throne to 
learn to sit in it with better grace V " 

These occasional interestinij deviations from the 
direct course of the disquisition confer a special 
interest on this work, and are useful by giving rise 
to appropriate reflections and impressing the facts 
connected with particular regions on the memory. 

In treating of the Tauric Chersonese, Rennell has 
occasion to refer to the evidence of Rubruquis ; and it 
is by such references throughout the work that we 
obtain an insight into the extent of his researches 
while preparing to write it. The warning sent by the 
King of IScythia to Darius to beware of doing any 
injury to the sepulchres of his ancestors in the district 
of the Geroli gives occasion for Rennell to furnish a 
most interesting dissertation on these tumuli and their 
contents, scattered throughout Russia, using the paper 
by Mr. Tooke in the Archceologia, VII., p. 228, as 
his principal authority. He also has a short and 
interesting chapter on the bridges thrown across the 
Bosphorus and the Hellespont by Darius and Xerxes, 
relying upon such modem authorities as Tournefort, 
Gibbon, Tott, and Pocock. 

When he comes to treat of the countries beyond 
Euxine Scythia, we find Rennell comparing the state- 
ments of Herodotus with such authorities as Petis de 
la Croix, Abulghazi Khan, Edrisi, and Abulfeda. The 


custom of the Hyperboreans of sending their offerings 
to Apollo of Delos by the hands of two virgins gives 
occasion for some interesting reflections, which seem 
well worthy of being quoted. 

On one occasion the two Hyperborean virgins 
who had come with offerings to Apollo died at Delos, 
and the guard that brought them never returned. To 
prevent a repetition of this dfiaster, the Hyperboreans 
henceforward sent their ofierings through the agency 
of intervening nations ; but the Delian youth showed 
their sympathy by celebrating certain rites in honour 
of the virgins. Major Rennell observes: "There is 
something more than ordinarily melancholy in the 
fate of those who, visiting a distant country on some 
specific errand, and with a view to immediate return, 
perish untimely in a strange land. How often has 
this happened in our own times: in particular, the fate 
of Tupia^ and of Lee Boof interests us, from their 
amiable dispositions and the grief of their friends who 
awaited their return. 

* Tupia was a chief and priest of Tahiti, who embarked with 
Captain Cook on board the Endeavour in July, 1769, desiring to visit 
England. He was very intelligent, and his services were most valu- 
able as an interpreter la New Zealand; but he died at Batavia in 
December, 1770. 

t When the East India Company's ship Antelope^ commanded by 
Captain Wilson, was lost on one of the Pelew Islands in 178.3, the 
king received the shipwrecked people with great hospitality, and his 
subjects assisted them to build a small vessel. Captain Wilson 
offered to take the king's son, Prince Lee Boo, to England, have him 
educated, and send him back. The proposal was accepted, and Lee 
Boo was brought to England, where he was carried off by small-pox 
in December, 1784. He was an amiable and most promising youth. 
Everybody has read his story in the " Child's Own Book." The sad 
news of the prince's death was brought to the Pelew Isles in 1791 by 
the Panther (Captain McCluer) . 


" Whatsoever has a tendency to Hnk mankind 
together in peaceful society is pleasing to liberal 
minds, and therefore we feel a degree of sorrow for 
such accidents. For whether the object of the visit 
be rational curiosity or harmless superstition, or both, 
the effect produced on the mind may be good, while 
the benefits that whole communities may derive from 
the inquiries of such travellers are, in some cases, 

" The world has seen a Pythagoras, an Herodotus, 
a Peter Alexionitz, and a Banks forego either the 
exercise of unlimited power, the blandishments of 
elegant society, or at least the comforts of ease and 
security, to brave the dangers of the deep, or those 
greater dangers which often arise from intercourse 
with man in his savage state, in quest of knowledge or 
of useful productions — not that kind of knowledge 
alone which merely administers to the pleasure of 
the traveller, but that which is derived from inquiries 
concerning what useful customs or institutions among 
men and what products of the earth or sea might be 
imported into their own countries or colonies. 

" The interchange of useful vegetable products 
between the different countries of the earth, with a 
view to cultivation, is alone an object which com- 
mands the gratitude of the world ; and happy the man 
whose fame rests on this solid foundation — a founda- 
tion that opinion cannot shake, since all feel and* 
participate in the benefits. Systems of politics 
and the fame of their authors vanish, and are, in 
comparison to the other services, like unsubstantial 
clouds, that vary their form and colour with every 
change of positicai or circumstance." 

There is a striking remark on this subject which 



Dr. Swift puts in the mouth of one of his characters 
in " Gulliver's Travels " : — " Whoever would make two 
ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon 
a spot of ground where only one grew before, would 
desorve better of mankind and do more essential 
service to his country than the whole race of 
politicians put together." 

These and other reflections which occurred to the 
author, as he studied the events and the anecdotes 
related by Herodotus, are interspersed through the 
work, and give it a peculiar charm ; for Major Rennell 
thus not only elucidates the geographical descriptions 
of the father of history, but allows the reader to gain 
an insight into his own thoughts and opinions on 
many subjects. Having completed his view of the 
geography of Eastern Europe, Rennell next gives, for 
the time in which it was written, an admirable general 
description of the physical geography of Asia, especially 
explaining the nature of the great central Tibetan 
plateau, and of the mountain buttresses which encircle 
it. He pays very special attention to the questions 
relating to the Massageta?, Sacte, and other Scythian 
tribes., comparing the statements of all the writers 
of antiquity on this subject with those of modern 
travellers, and of such oriental authors as were ac- 
cessible to him. Rennell's chapters on the twenty 
Satrapies of the Empire of Darius Hystaspes are 
especially interesting. In one place there is a dis- 
cussion of the method of water-supply for large 
armies crossing a desert; and he compares the 
accounts in Herodotus, especially referring to the 
march of Cambyses into Egypt, with the method 
used by Nadir Shah, as described in Mr. Gladwin's 
-translation of " Abdul Kerreem." He compares the 


description of circular willow boats on the Euphrates 
by Herodotus, with the account of similar vessels 
seen by his friend Mr. SuHvan, who made a journey 
overland to India, and thus in many ways, and on 
every available occasion, he brings the corroborative 
or illustrative testimony of modem travellers to bear 
on the narrative of the father of history. 

In treating of the Satrapy of Susa, Major Rennell 
dwells upon the fact of the large immigration which 
took place in the days of Persia's early greatness into 
this interesting province. The Prophet Daniel and a 
company of Jews were at Susa, and here the Eretrians 
of Euboea were placed by Darius, whose generals 
captured them, and carried them off* during the first 
Persian invasion of Greece. This Grecian colony can 
bo traced as inhabitants of Susiana, preserving their 
language, for 540 years after the first captivity. In 
treating of Media, Major Rennell expresses his beUef 
that Ecbatana was on the site of the modem Hamadan, 
contrary to the opinions of Gibbon and Sir W. Jones. 
His arguments are that Susa was said to be half-way 
between Ecbatana and Seleucia; that Ecbatana was 
on the road from Nineveh to Rhages, and that it was 
on the road from Seleucia to Parthia These indica- 
tions point to Hamadan as the site. When speaking 
of the islands in the Persian Gulf, which were included 
in the Fourteenth Satrapy, Rennell mentions that there 
is much curious history belonging to these islands. 
They have at different times contained the com- 
mercial establishments of the Phoenicians, and also 
of European nations. " But what is more gratifying 
to the mind is that they have, in modern times, 
afforded asylums to the inhabitants of the maritime 
towns on the continent when invaded or oppressed; 
H 2 


and so regular has the system of taking refuge heeu, 
that some of the islands have their names from the 
opposite towns on the continent. In particular, the 
inhabitants of the continental Ormuz passed over into 
the island of that name (the Organa of Nearchus) on 
the irruption of the Tatars, in the thirteenth century. 
None can feel the importance of insular situations to 
the cause of liberty more than Englishmen, especially 
at this time. The Tatars had no fleets to pursue the 
fugitives to the islands, but the King of Persia, who 
possessed ships, made use of the islands as places of 

The object in making these quotations is not to 
review Major Rennell's work, but rather to illustrate 
his thoughts and the workings of his mind. They 
may appropriately be concluded with his remarks on 
the intercourse between Alexander the Great and 
Calanus. While Alexander was in the Punjab some 
Brahmans were brought to him, and one of them, 
named Calanus, returned with him into Persia. Mr. 
Williams suggested to Major Rennell that the real 
name was Kalyanah. " In this Indian philosopher 
we trace, at the distance of more than twenty- one 
centuries, the same frame of mind and the like 
superstitions as in the same tribe in our own times : 
a contempt for death, founded on an unshaken belief 
in the immortality of the soul, and an unconquerable 
adherence to ancient customs. The friendly con- 
nection that subsisted between Alexander and this 
philosopher does infinite honour to both, for it 
proves that both possessed great minds and amiable 
dispositions. Alexander never appears to such ad- 
vantage as during the last act of the life of Calanus. 
This Indian sage, finding his health decline, and 


believing that his end approached, determined to 
lose his life on a funeral pile to avoid the misery 
of a gradual decay, to which Alexander reluctantly 
consented, from an idea that some other mode of 
suicide, less grateful to the feelings of Calanus, would 
certainly be resorted to. Alexander even condescended 
to arrange the ceremonies himself ; and Arrian appears 
to be much struck with the character and fortitude of 
Calanus, and remarks : ' This is an example of no mean 
import to those who study mankind: to show how 
firm and unalterable the mind of man is when custom 
or education has taken full possession of it.' *' Major 
Rennell refers to the story of AUavee Khan, a respect- 
able Muhammadan physician of Delhi, who returned 
to Persia with Nadir Shah, and exercised a good 
influence over one of the most stubborn and blood- 
thirsty tyrants the world has ever produced. But 
Calanus had to deal with a conqueror who was also an 
educated philosopher, and had an easier task than 
Allavee Khan in managing Nadir Shah. 

The two last sections, containing an examination 
of the report of Aristagoras concerning the royal road 
from Ionia to Susa, and a dissertation on the site and 
remains of Babylon, are very important to students of 
ancient history. The second volume of Rennell*s 
"Herodotus" treats entirely of the geography of 
Africa. His paper "On the Topography of Troy," 
and his works on " Cyrus and the Retreat of the Ten 
Thousand " and on " The Comparative Geography of 
Western Asia," are parts of his great project, each, 
like the geography of Herodotus, forming complete 
works in themselves. 

**The Illustrations (chiefly geographical) of the 
History of the Expedition of Cyrus and the Retreat 


of the Ten Thousand " was dedicated to Lord Gren- 
ville, and pubUshed in 1816. The "Anabasis" is a 
military history, but it is also a book of travels, for 
the Greeks went over e3,700 miles of ground, and 
Xenophon described it all. By the light of the work 
of contemporary travellers, and through his own 
sagacity, Rennell was enabled to make numerous 
important corrections. The map of Asia Minor by 
D'Anville is over a degree out in latitude, which 
threw out most of his positions, so that Rennell had 
the task of reconstructing the map afresh. In this 
difficult undertaking he received help from Von 
Hammer, who sent him translations of several 
Arabian geographers from Vienna. Niebuhr sent 
him much information and a map of his route 
through the southern part of Asia Minor. His friend 
the Right Hon. J. Sulivan furnished him with most 
valuable notes of a journey up the valley of the 
Tigris, while Dr. Gillies was ever ready with advice 
respecting Xenophon's text. The translations used 
were the English version by Spelman and the French 
by Larcher. 

The African traveller, William G. Browne, had also 
done work which was of considerable assistance m 
tracing the march of Cyrus. Born in 1768, Browne 
was at Oriel College, and graduated at Oxford, 
devoting his future life to scientific travel. From 
Egypt, he explored the oasis of Siwah, the Roman 
quarries at Cosseir, and reached Darfur in 1793. 
Returning to England, he published his African 
travels in 1800, and almost immediately set out on 
an adventurous journey through Asia Minor and 
Persia to Central Asia. His routes were very care- 
fully laid down, and sent home for Rennell's use. 


They covered parts of Asia Minor in which the great 
geographer was most interested, and he frequently 
acknowledges the assistance derived from them. 
Proceeding eastward, the intrepid traveller entered 
Persia, where his labours came to an untimely end. 
Mr. Browne was murdered by brigands, in 1813, on 
the road between Tabriz and Tehran. 

Major Rennell erroneously supposed the "royal 
road" to have been the same with that followed by 
Cyrus and described by Xenophon, so that his examin- 
ation of its details is rendered valueless; but he 
corrected the map of D*Anville, and, with the aid of 
modern routes and information, he threw much light 
on numerous passages in the text. He took great 
interest in this portion of his work, and pronounced 
the expedition of Cyrus, taken in all its parts, to be 
the most splendid of all the military events that have 
been recorded in ancient history. 

In 1814 Major Rennell published his observations 
on the topography of the plain of Troy, with a map. 
His object was to show that the then generally 
received system of Chevalier, brought forward in 
1791, was founded on erroneous topography. The 
major again apologises for his want of knowledge of 
the Greek language, but he remarks, very truly, that 
it does not always happen that a critical knowledge of 
languages and a turn for geographical disquisitions 
meet in the same person. He made use of Cowper's 
translation of " Homer " ; and received much advice 
and assistance from Sir Joseph Banks, Dr. Gillies, and 
especially from Gell, the author of the " Topography 
of the Plain of Troy," published in 1804. 

Two volumes were published by his daughter. 
Lady Rodd, after his death, which were, in fact. 


Rennell's workshop, displaying his critical methods 
and his treatment of the materials he collected. 
Their title is " A Treatise on the Comparative Geo- 
graphy of Western Asia, with an Atlas of Maps." 
His introduction describes the authorities on whose 
work he relies for the different sections of his map : 
Niebuhr supplied him with a line of distances from 
Hilla, on the Euphrates, to Brusa ; Browne with routes 
in Asia Minor ; Beauchamp gave him a more correct 
delineation of the south shore of the Black Sea ; the 
2:)ositions and itineraries of the Arabian geographers 
were useful; and valuable maps were drawn by a 
Hungarian renegade, named Ibrahim Effendi — a 
very accomplished man, who introduced copper-plate 
engraving into Constantinople in 1729. After de- 
scribing his authorities. Major Rennell discusses the 
itinerary measurements in different countries and the 
various rates of travelling. He considers the caravan 
journeys, the rate of camels, the days' journeys, as 
given by the Arabian geographers Ibn Haukal and 
Edrisi, and the mean rate of the marches of armies. 
Then follow the descriptions of provinces, with critical 
remarks on the geogi^aphy and on the relative im- 
portance to be attached to the routes and accounts 
of travellers. 

This record of the construction of the comparative 
geography of Western Asia was prepared for the use 
of those who should in the future elaborate more im- 
proved systems of geography for the same tracts ; for 
after so much labour and time had been employed in 
collecting the materials, their use would have been 
lost to future geographers had they only remained in 
the mixed state in which they must necessarily exist 
on a map. Hence the notes were kept together and 


arranged, forming a complete record of the considera- 
tions and arguments for fixing each place on the maps 
and for the delineation of all the principal features. 

It will be seen that the great work on the " Com- 
parative Geography of Western Asia" was never 
quite completed. The " Geography of Herodotus," the 
illustrations of the history of the "Expedition of 
Cyrus," and the observations on the " Topography of 
the Plain of Troy " are portions of the work that was 
contemplated, each complete in itself. The treatise 
on the "Comparative Geography of Western Asia," 
with the accompanying maps, is the workshop, show- 
ing how the master worked with his geographical 
materials, and his method of building up the fair 
edifice which he left unfinished. It was a splendid 
conception, worthy of the great geographer, whose 
fame partly rests on the completed portions, especially 
on the " Geography of Herodotus." The latter work 
was not merely adapted for Rennell's own generation ; 
it is of permanent use to geographical students. 
Sir Edward Bunbury, our greatest living authority on 
the subject, has recorded his opinion that Renneirs 
" Herodotus " is still of the greatest value. 



In the end of the last century the attention of 
geographers was turned to the continent of Africa, 
as the region containing the largest extent of entirely 
unknown country and the most interesting problems 
to be solved. The absence of inland seas made its 
interior more inaccessible than that of the other 
continents, and the difficulties and expense involved 
in African travel made it almost impossible for pri- 
vate individuals, and seemed to render the formation 
of an association necessary to organise discovery. 

Major Rennell's studies of Herodotus had already 
made him a very high authority on all matters re- 
lating to African geography. The whole of his second 
volume of the " Geography of Herodotus " was devoted 
to Africa, and the various questions are there treated 
with such clearness, perspicacity, and erudition that 
this second volume may be classed as the very best of 
Rennell's numerous works. He first investigates the 
question of the source of the Nile, of which Herodotus 
had very vague and contradictory notions : in one 
place supposing that the Nile rose to the westward of 
the greater S3rrtis, and in another deriving it from 
the south. Ptolemy placed the sources far to the 
south of the equator, and he was followed by Edrisi 


Comparing the narrative of Bruce with that of Maillet, 
Major Rennell concluded that the Bkie Nile and the 
Atbara were tributaries, and that the Bahr-el-abiad 
was the true Nile, with its source very far to the 
south-west of Abyssinia. He hesitated to place the 
source at so remote a distance as was adopted by 
Ptolemy or the Arabian geographers, but he thought 
that it was at least as far south as 6° N. His 
prophecy was that the true source of the Nile would 
be found when travellers made it their business to 
discover it, and not till then, because it probably lies 
far out of the touch of any caravan that visits the 
marts frequented by merchants who have intercourse 
with Europeans. He evidently looked forward to the 
time when the great Society which was the con- 
tinuator and successor of the African Association, 
should send forth its Burtons and Spekes to solve 
the problem of ages and discover the sources of 
the Nile. 

The sections on the delta of the Nile are most 
interesting, for here Major Rennell brings the great 
knowledge and experience he had acquired in survey- 
ing the Gangetic channels to bear on the questions 
connected with the changes in the Nile delta. He 
first discusses the Isthmus of Suez and the various 
statements of the ancients relating to the canal cut 
from the Pelusiac branch, through the bitter lakes, to 
the Gulf of Suez. He then enters upon the changes 
that have taken place in the delta since historic times, 
and on the causes leading to the choking-up of the 
Canopic and Pelusiac branches of the Nile. Renneirs 
general remarks on deltas and estuaries, on the 
positions of bars of rivers, and on the causes which 
lead to their formation, form an admirable exposition 


of this part of the subject, and show the author's 
mastery of a difficult but very important branch of 
physical geography. 

The oases of Egypt and Libya, which are called by 
Abulfeda " the islands of the desert," were poetically 
described in Thomson's " Seasons " as — 

" The tufted isles 
That verdant rise amid the Libyan wilds." 

They had a special interest for Rennell, because they 
were the steppirfg-stones of the caravan route from 
Egypt to Fezzan, which he often had occasion to study 
M. Poncet in 1698, and Browne in Renneirs own time, 
described the oasis of Siwa, which contains the ruins 
of the temple of Jupiter Ammon ; and Browne observed 
for latitude and longitude at Siout. It was by the 
narratives of travellers who had visited these oases, 
compared with Edrisi and Abulfeda, who give a 
complete chain of distances from Cairo to Fezzan, 
that Rennell established the position of Mouzourk, 
which D'Anville had placed eighty miles too far north. 
From the oases between Egypt and Fezzan, Rennell 
conducts his readers to the gulfs between Carthage 
and Cyrene, known to the ancients as the Greater 
and Lesser Syrtis, and Lake Tritonis, including the 
country of the lotus-eaters. Syrtis was the terror of 
ancient mariners, because the coast was fully exposed 
to the north and east winds, and there was great 
difficulty and danger in working off a shallow lee 
shore. Rennell was the first to suggest that the Lake 
Tritonis of Herodotus was identical with the Lesser 
Syrtis of later writers: a view in which he is sup- 
ported by Rawlinson. He wrote a very detailed and 


Taluable dissertation on these Mediterranean gulfs 
and on the tribes of Cyrenaica, who inhabited their 
shores, inchiding a discussion on the lotus of this 
coast, described by Pliny, and, in Rennell's time, with 
more scientific accuracy by Desfontfiines, Dr. Shaw, 
and Mungo Park. 

But the most important sections in RennelFs 
** African Geography of Herodotus " are those which 
are devoted to the alleged circumnavigation of Africa by 
Phoenician mariners under orders from Pharaoh Necho, 
and to the Periplus of Hanno. In considering the story 
of the circumnavigation, as told by Herodotus, Major 
Rennell collected data to determine the rate of sailing 
in ancient tunes, and their comparison gave an average 
of only thirty-seven miles a day, always anchoring at 
night. On an emergency, Nearchus was sometimes 
under sail in very clear moonlight. He also considered 
the efiects of monsoons, trades, and currents, and the 
time taken for sowing and reaping harvests, his 
conclusion being that there was nothing to have 
prevented the Phoenician sailors from performing 
the circumnavigation of Africa in two years and a 
half. The arguments on both sides are exhausted, as 
Sir Edward Bunbury observed ; and the absence of all 
details respecting the alleged voyage precludes the 
possibility of adding to them by further investigation. 
Opinions will always continue to be divided : Gosselin, 
Dr. Vincent, Mr. Cooley, and, of course, Sir George C. 
Lewis, were incredulous. Rennell saw no reason for 
disbelief, and his view was supported by Larcher, 
Heeren, Rawlinson, and Grote. He constructed a 
map to explain the circumnavigation of Africa, 
showing the winds and currents. 

The voyage of Hanno is also the subject of one of 


RennelFs sections, and he gave a very elaborate and 
valuable examination to the questions involved. He 
also constructed maps to show the probable course of 
Hanno's voyage, with currents, and Western Africa 
according to Ptolemy. The " Periplus of Hanno " had 
been translated by Falconer in 1797. Rennell was 
the first to identify the " Southern Horn," or furthest 
point of Hanno, with Sherborough Sound, just beyond 
Sierra Leone. His argument is conclusive, and was 
adopted by later editors. Sir Edward Bunbury says : — 
" The merit of having first established the true view 
of the question undoubtedly rests with the great 
English hydrographer." * 

These studies of African geography, extending 
over many years, made Rennell a high authority 
and a most invaluable coadjutor when the African 
Association commenced its operations. There was a 
tribe of Cyrenaica, called Nasamones, who are men- 
tioned by Herodotus as having been great explorers. 
We are told that a party of Nasamones made an ex- 
pedition into the interior of Africa, with a view to 
extending their discoveries beyond all former adven- 
turers. They crossed the desert and were taken 
prisoners by diminutive black men, who took them to 
a city washed by a river abounding in crocodiles, 
which may have been the Niger. Major Rennell 
hails the Nasamones as the African Association of 
their day. 

For the African Association had come into exist- 
ence while Rennell was still at work on his " Herodotus." 
Its members, in announcing their plan, said that 
" much of Asia, a still larger proportion of America 

* Ancient Geography, I., 322. 


and almost the whole of Africa, were unvisited and 
unknown. The map of the interior of Africa is still 
but a wide extended blank, on which the geographer, 
on the authority of Edrisi and Leo Africanus, has 
traced, with a hesitating hand, a few names of un- 
explored rivers and uncertain nations. The course of 
the Niger, the places of its rise and termination, and 
even its existence as a separate stream, are still 
undetermined. Nor has our knowledge of the Senegal 
and Gambia rivers improved within the last half- 
century, the falls of Felu on the first of these rivers, 
and those of Baraconda on the last, being still the 
limits of discovery. It is certain that while we con- 
tinue ignorant of so large a portion of the globe, that 
ignorance must be considered as a degree of reproach 
upon the present age. Sensible of this stigma, and 
desirous of rescuing the age from a charge of ignorance, 
a few individuals, strongly impressed with a conviction 
of the practicability and utility of thus enlarging the 
fund of human knowledge, have formed the plan of 
an Association for promoting the discovery of the 
interior parts of Africa." 

Accordingly, there was a meeting at the St. Alban's 
Tavern on the 9th of June, 1788, when Sir Joseph 
Banks was elected Secretary of the Association. The 
Earl of Galloway, Lord Rawdon, Sir Adam Fergusson, 
General Conway, and Messrs. Fordyce, Pulteney, 
Beaufoy, and Stuart were present; the Bishop of 
Llandafl* being a member, but absent. It was agreed 
that the subscription should be five guineas, and that 
there should be a Committee to select persons to be 
sent on expeditions of discovery, to form rules, and 
superintend the expenditure. The Committee con- 
sisted of Sir Joseph Banks, Lord Rawdon, the Bishop 


of Llandaff, Mr. Beaufoy, and Mr. StiiarL Major 
Rennell was an honorary member of the Association. 
The Bishop of Llandaff was the Honourable Shute 
Barrington, afterwards Bishop of Durham for thirty- 
five years. He had been a Fellow of Merton, and, 
like his brother, Daines Barrington, was a keen 
geographer. Henry Beaufoy, who was at first one 
of the most active members of the Association, was 
the son of a Quaker wine merchant in London. He 
was in Parliament for many years, and for a short 
time Secretary to the Board of Control It was 
Beaufoy who drew up the original plan of the 
African Association and the Association's first report. 
He died in 1795.^ The Association soon numbered 
137 members, including Earl Spencer, the Earl of 
Wycombe, the Hon. J. Grenville, Gibbon the his- 
torian, the Speaker Addington, and Wm. Marsden. 
Sir Joseph Banks held the ofiice of secretary until 
1797, when he was succeeded by Bryan Edwards, the 
historian of the West Indies ; and in 1801 Sir William 
Young became secretary. 

Eager to commence work with as little delay as 
possible, the Committee at once selected Mr. Ledyard 
and Mr. Lucas to penetrate into the interior of the 
imknoAvn continent. Ledyard had made a voyage 
round the world with Captain Cook, as corporal of 
marines. He received great kindness from Sir Joseph 
Banks, who encouraged his enthusiasm for discovery. 
Ledyard had conceived the idea of traversing the whole 
extent of Arctic America — then unknown — from the 

* Not to be confused with his namesake, Mark Beaufoy, th& 
magnetic observer, who was Colonel of the Tower Hamlets IMilitia, 
!Mark Beaufoy ascended Mont Blanc in 1787, six days later than 
Saussure. Born in 1764, ho survived till 1827. 


Pacific to the Atlantic, and in order to reach the 
threshold of his enterprise he resolved to make his 
way by land to Kamschatka and cross Behring's Strait. 
With only ten guineas in his purse, he crossed from 
Dover to Ostend. Thence he found his way to Stock- 
holm, and tried to cross the Gulf of Bothnia on the ice. 
This being impracticable, he returned to Stockholm, 
and set out on foot to the north, passing round the head 
of the gulf, and reaching St. Petersburg, where he ar- 
rived without shoes or stockings. He drew a bill for 
twenty pounds on Sir Joseph Banks, and was allowed 
to join a detachment about to proceed with stores to 
Yakutsk ; and he found his way thence to Okzakoff. 
Here he was suddenly seized, owing to some groundless 
suspicion, and conveyed on a sledge, in the depth of 
winter, to the PoUsh frontier, where he was turned 
adrift. Worn with hardships, exhausted by disease, 
nearly naked, he walked into the town of Konigsberg. 
Here he again ventured to draw for five pounds on the 
President of the Royal Society. By this means he 
reached London, and Sir Joseph Banks immediately 
proposed to him to take service under the African 

Sir Joseph sent Ledyard to Mr. Beaufoy, who was 
" struck with the manliness of his person, the breadth 
of his chest, the openness of his countenance, and the 
inquietude of his eye." Spreading a map of Africa 
before him, Mr. Beaufoy drew a line from Cairo to 
Senaar, and thence westward to the supposed position 
of the Niger, telling him that was his route. Ledyard 
replied that he should think himself singularly fortu- 
nate to be entrusted with the adventure, and on being 
asked when he would be ready to start, his answer 
was : " To-morrow morning." 

130 rennell's map of Africa. 

Mr. Lucas, the other explorer, had been sent to 
Cadiz when a boy for education as a merchant. On 
his voyage home his ship was captured by a Sallee 
rover, and he was sent as a slave to Morocco. He 
was redeemed after three years, and received the post 
of Vice-Consul of Morocco from the Governor of 
Gibraltar. After sixteen years, Mr. Lucas returned to 
England, and accepted service under the African 

Ledyard was instructed to traverse Africa from 
east to west, in the latitude of the Niger ; while Lucas 
was to traverse the desert from Tripoli to Fezzan, 
returning by the Gambia or the coast of Guinea. 
These were very ambitious projects indeed; but the 
continent was still a complete blank, and the diffi- 
culties were not fully understood. Ledyard left 
England in June, 1788, arriving at Cairo in August, 
where a fever put an end to the career of this 
remarkable man. He was on the point of starting 
with a caravan to Senaar. Lucas arrived at Tripoli 
in October, 1788, and set out on his journey to 
Mourzouk, the capital of Fezzaa He did not suc- 
ceed in penetrating into the interior beyond this 
point, returning to Tripoli in April, 1789. He, 
however, collected a great deal of valuable informa- 
tion in Fezzan respecting the countries of the south. 

In 1790 Major Rennell constructed a map of the 
northern half of Africa for the African Association, 
designed to illustrate all existing knowledge, and it 
was accompanied by a very able and lucid memoir 
on the materials for constructing such a map. He 
begins by remarking that nothing can evince the low 
state of African geography more than the fact of 
M. D'Anville having had recourse to the works of 

RENNELL's map of AFRICA 131 

Ptolemy and Edrisi to construct the interior of 
his map, pu Wished in 1749. Rennell was supplied 
with numerous routes and itineraries, and he found 
by long experience that one mile in eight must be 
deducted to reduce the distances given to horizontal 
measurement. But he was furnished with very few 
fixed positions. In his map of 1790, Major Rennell 
took the general outline, and the courses of the Nile, 
Gambia, and Senegal, from D'Anville. By means of 
caravan itineraries, the positions of Mourzouk, Agadez, 
and Cashna were provisionally fixed, Cashna being 
considered as the central kingdom of Northern Africa, 
of which but few particulars were then known. The 
Niger was believed to flow south of Timbuktu, and 
was reported to be lost in the sands to the eastward. 
Rennell found more difficulty in fixing the position of 
Gonjah, which is the Conche of D'Anville and the 
Gonge of Delisle ; the length of the journey of ninety- 
seven days from Cashna rendering it very uncertain 
where it should be placed. Timbuktu was placed on 
the authority of Mr. Matra, British Consul at Morocco, 
and of the reports of natives. The point of next im- 
portance was Bornou, for which there was a native 
itinerary from Mourzouk. Rennell's map of Africa 
was corrected in 1798, and again in 1802, when the 
work of Houghton, Mungo Park, and other travellers 
employed by the Association, were incorporated. It 
thus formed a record of the discoveries, and of the 
increase of geographical knowledge, made through the 
exertions of the Association. 

A detailed but exaggerated account of the inland 
kingdom of Houssa had been received by the Associa- 
tion from an Arab, named Shabeni, and they were 
anxious to ascertain the truth of his stories and ta 
I 2 


discover the true course of the Niger. The Committee 
therefore eagerly accepted the proffered services of 
Major Houghton, formerly a captain in the 69th, and 
who had since acted as fort-major at Gori. His 'plan 
was to penetrate to the Niger by way of the Gambia. 
His instructions were to visit Timbuktu and Houssa, 
and to return by way of the desert, if possible. 
Arriving at the entrance of the Gambia in November, 

1790, he was kindly received at Medina by the King 
of Wulli ; but here a great misfortune befell him. A 
fire destroyed not only his own house, with most of 
his goods, but also the greater part of the town, while 
his faithless interpreter decamped with his animals. 
Nevertheless, he started, in May, 1791, in company 
with a slave merchant ; two asses carrying the wreck 
of his property. Passing the former Umit of European 
discovery, he crossed the river Falemi and entered 
the kingdom of Bondou, where he was badly received. 
He, however, found a more hospitable welcome from 
the neighbouring King of Bambouk, where a merchant 
offered to conduct him on horseback to Timbuktu, 
and to attend him on his return to the Gambia. 
Major Houghton's last dispatches were dated July, 

1791, and they enabled Major Rennell to prepare a 
most interesting paper on the further elucidation of 
African geography. A pencil note, dated September, 
was received by Ur. Laidley, a resident at Pisania, on 
the Gambia, in which Houghton reported that he had 
been robbed of all his goods. He never returned; 
and there was too much reason to fear that he was 
stripped and left to die in the desert. The Associa- 
tion succeeded in obtaining a small provision for 
Major Houghton's widow from the Government. 

The next explorer who took service under the 


African Association was a native of Hildesheim, in 
Germany, named Frederick Hornemann, who had 
studied at Gottingen, under Dr. Blumenbach and 
Professor Heeren, and had acquired a knowledge of 
Arabic. He was a young man, full of enthusiasm, 
with a strong constitution. Arriving at Cairo, he 
assumed the Eastern dress, and set out on his journey 
from Cairo to Fezzan in 1799. He arrived at Mour- 
zouk, and his journals furnished ample materials for 
improving the maps of that region. They included an 
interesting account of his visit to the ruins of the 
Temple of Jupiter Ammon. Major Rennell prepared 
maps to illustrate Hornemann's journal, and wrote 
valuable geographical elucidations of his travels. 
Both Mr. Browne and Mr. Hornemann visited the 
oasis of Siwah and the ruins of the famous temple, 
and the latter made careful measurements. Rennell 
discusses fully the new information collected by 
Hornemann respecting the kingdom of Fezzan, as 
well as the improvements in the general geography 
of North Africa since the construction of his map, 
in 1790. 

Mr. Browne's work was superior to that of the 
German traveller, because he fixed his positions by 
astronomical observations, while Hornemann's lin- 
guistic attainments enabled him to collect more 
information from the natives. Both possessed very 
great merits as travellers, in Major Renneirs judg- 
ment, and threw much light on the regions they 
described. Browne's materials consisted of 16^ of 
latitude from Cairo to the capital of Darfur, corrected 
by observations for latitude and longitude ; while the 
information he obtained from natives reached to about 
the parallel of 8° N., and included reports touching the 


sources of the White Nile. Mr. Homemann acquired 
the erroneous belief that the Joliba, or Niger, passed 
by the south of Darfur into the White Nile. Rennell 
thought it probable that the Niger terminated, by 
evaporation, in the country of Wangara, to the 
westward of Bornou. Mr. Homemann collected a 
good deal of information respecting the people and 
countries south and west of Fezzan, including Houssa 
and Timbuktu. Hornemann set out from Mourzouk 
with the object of reaching Bornou. Years passed 
away, many inquiries were instituted, and rumours of 
Yusuf — the name under which Homemann travelled — 
were occasionally received; but no authentic intelli- 
gence was ever obtained, and his fate is unknown. 

Meanwhile, the Association was occupied in seeking 
for a successor to Major Houghton, who would under- 
take a similar journey from the Gambia to the Niger. 
The Committee was most fortunate in its selection of 
Mungo Park. Born in 1771, in a cottage in the glen 
of Yarrow, where his father was a small farmer with 
a large family, the future explorer was sent to Selkirk 
Grammar School. He was next apprenticed to a 
surgeon at Selkirk, and went thence to Edinburgh 
University. In 1792 he went out to India as a 
surgeon in the East India Company's sea service. 
His first voyage was to Sumatra, and on his return 
he offered his services to the African Association ; and 
they were promptly accepted. Sailing from England 
in May, 1795, Mungo Park, who had just reached the 
age of twenty-four, proceeded up the River Gambia. 
He was very hospitably received by Dr. J^aidley at 
the factory of Pisania, v;here he passed several 
months. His instructions were to reach the River 
Niger, and to ascertain its source, its course, and, if 


possible, its termination ; and to visit Timbuktu and 
the towns of the Houssa country. After acquiring 
some knowledge of the Mandingo language, Mungo 
Park set out from Pisania in December, 1795. Passing 
through Medina, where he was civilly received by the 
King of WuUi, he left the Gambia, and took a course 
towards the Senegal River, over the Bondou country, 
inhabited by the Moorish race of Fulahs. Crossing 
the Senegal, he adopted a circuitous route by way 
of Ludamar, an Arab district, to Bambarra, on the 

It was in this part of the country that Park fell in 
with the lotus — a plant to which Major Rennell had 
devoted much attention and research in the part of 
his work on Herodotus relating to the Lotophagi, on 
the shores of the Gulf of Syrtis. In riding along, 
Mungo Park and his followers came upon two negroes 
who had come to gather what they called tomberongs. 
These proved to be small farinaceous berries, of a 
yellow colour and delicious taste : the fruit of Rham- 
nu8 lotus of Linnaeus. Mungo Park gives a very 
interesting accoimt of this famous plant: " The berries 
are much esteemed by the natives, who convert them 
into a sort of bread, by exposing them for some days 
to the sun, and afterwards pounding them gently in a 
wooden mortar until the farinaceous part of the berry 
is separated from the stone. This meal is then mixed 
with a little water and formed into cakes, which, when 
dried in the sim, resemble in colour and flavour the 
sweetest gingerbread. The stones are afterwards put 
into a vessel of water and shaken about, so as to 
separate the meal which may still adhere to thera 
This communicates a sweet and agreeable taste to the 
water, and, with the addition of a little powdered 


millet, forms a pleasant gruel, which is the common 
breakfast in many parts of Ludamar during February 
and March. The fruit is collected by spreading a 
cloth upon the ground and beating the branches 
with a stick." The lotus is very common in all the 
kingdoms visited by Mungo Park, especially in 
Ludamar and the northern parts of Bambarra; and 
Major Rennell looked upon its identification as one 
of the most interesting collateral results of his young 
friend's journey. The plant had previously been 
figured by Desfontaines in the "Memoires de T Academic 
Royale des Sciences," 1788. Park observes that there 
can be httle doubt of its being the lotus mentioned 
by Pliny as the food of Libyan Lotophagi. 

Park was detained and imprisoned by Ali, the 
Chief of Ludamar, on the borders of the Great 
Desert, and escaped with difficulty, after a long 
detention. At length the gallant explorer, in July, 
1796, reached Sego, the capital of Bambarra, where he 
first saw " the great object of his mission — the long- 
sought-for majestic Niger — glittering to the morning 
sun, as broad as the Thames at Westminster, and 
flowing slowly to the eastward." It was when refused 
permission to cross the ferry to Sego, denied hospitality 
by all the inhabitants of a neighbouring village, and 
about to pass the night under a tree, hungry and 
tired, that the woman took pity on him, whose people 
sang the extempore song we all know so well : — 

" The winds roared and the rains fell, 
The poor white man, faint and weary, came and sat under 

our tree. 
He has no mother to bring him milk, 
No wife to grind his corn ; 
Let us pity the white man : no mother has he." 


The King of Bambarra dismissed Park with a present 
of a bag of cowries, and he pursued his journey to the 
eastward. He reached the town of Silla, where he 
determined to retrace his steps, for the tropical rains 
were setting in, and he seemed to be getting into the 
country of merciless and fanatical Moors. He was 
informed that it was fourteen days* journey from Silla 
to Kabra on the Niger, which is but one day from 
Timbuktu. Eleven days' journey down the stream 
the river passes Houssa, but all the natives seemed to 
be ignorant of the further course of the Niger and of its 
mouth. Houssa was reported to be a great mart for 
Moorish commerce. After enduring many insults and 
terrible hardships. Park at length succeeded in joining 
a caravan and in reaching Pisania, where he was 
warmly welcomed by Dr. Laidley, who had given 
him up for lost. He reached England in December, 

The excitement in London was so great, and the 
eagerness to know the details of Park's journey so 
importunate, that the African Association issued a 
preliminary report, written by the secretary, Mr. Bryan 
Edwards. Major Rennell worked out the routes of 
Mungo Park with great care, and his geographical 
illustrations were published, with a map of Park's 
route, which was afterwards used to illustrate his 
book. Rennell considered that the journey of Mungo 
Park had brought to the knowledge of his generation 
more important facts respecting the geographj* of 
Western Africa than had been collected by any 
former traveller. By pointing out the positions of 
the sources of the Senegal, Oambia, and Niger, he 
showed where to look for the elevated parts of the 
country and for the water-partings between the 


Gambia and Niger, as well as the boundary between 
Moors and Negroes, and between the fertile country 
and the desert. 

Rennell traced the history of opinion respecting 
the course of the Niger from the earliest times. 
Herodotus described the river as flowins: from west to 
east, dividing Africa as the Danube divides Europe. 
He held the Niger to be a remote branch of the Nile. 
Ptolemy describes the Niger as a separate stream 
from the Gambia and Senegal, and as extending from 
west to east over half the breadth of Africa. But 
Edrisi took the Niger westward into the Atlantic, 
and he was followed by Abulfcda. The early Portu- 
guese held the same opinion, thinking that the Niger 
was merely the upper course of the Senegal De 
Lisle's map of Africa (1707) gives the Niger a direct 
course through Africa, rising in Bomou, and ter- 
minating in the Senegal. But in his subsequent 
editions of 1722 and 1727 this blunder is corrected, 
and the course of the Niger is turned east towards 
Bornou, where it terminates in a lake. The cause of 
this correction may be traced to information from 
Frenchmen settled on the Senegal. D*Anville followed 
the later editions of De Lisle. 

Major Rennell then proceeds to discuss the oro- 
graphy of the region explored by Mungo Park. 
According to Leo Africanus, the country of Melli Ls 
bordered on the south by mountains, and these 
must be nearly in the same parallel as the moun- 
tains of Kong, seen by Park. Mr. Beaufoy was 
also informed that the countries south of the 
Niger were mountainous and woody. The evidence 
respecting the Kong mountains seemed to preclude 
the idea that the Niger turned to the south and 

park's last journey. 139 

emptied itself into the Gulf of Guinea. The other 
alternative was that it continued to flow to the east, 
finally losing itself in a lake in the far interior, 
called Wangora by Edrisi. But this was merely a 
provisional theory, which best fitted the information 
actually obtained. Major Rennell was not in the 
least wedded to it. He always said that the place 
and mode of the termination of the Niger were not 
exactly known ; and long afterwards, in a letter to Sir 
Francis Beaufort, he wrote : — " If Denham is successful, 
we may know what becomes of the Niger." The 
elucidation of Mungo Park's routes, and the construc- 
tion of the map of his travels, was a most important 
service, for which geographers are indebted to the 
learning, skill, and industry of Major Rennell. 

The remarkable success of his first journey in- 
duced the Government to employ Park to complete 
the discovery of the course of the Niger. He received 
a captain's commission, with his brother-in-law, 
Anderson, as his lieutenant, and he was to be accom- 
panied by forty-five European soldiers, besides natives. 
Sailing from England in January, 1805, all was ready 
for the march by April ; but it was a fatal mistake to 
employ European soldiers, and disease broke out 
within the first week of leaving Pisania. Many died ; 
and it was not until August that the Niger was 
reached. The party was embarked in canoes, but it 
had dwindled down to five men, besides Park and 
Anderson; and in October Anderson died. Park 
was resolved to discover the mouth of the Niger, or die 
in the attempt. He sailed over a thousand miles down 
the river, but below Yuri he encountered rapids, 
while both shores were lined with hostile natives. 
The little vessel of the explorers was hopelessly 


jammed in a cleft of the rocks; all efforts to free 
her proved unavailing, and finally Park and his three 
surviving companions jumped overboard, and were 
drowned. Thus did this great traveller meet an 
heroic death in the midst of his discoveries. He set 
a glorious example of devotion to duty, of daunt- 
less courage, and unswerving resolution; and his 
name will ever be held in honour by succeeding 

In 1820 the English Government resolved to equip 
an expedition with the object of penetrating south- 
wards from Fezzan in the track of poor Homemann. 
It consisted of Lieutenant Clapperton, R.N., Major 
Denham, and Dr. Oudney, with servants and an Arab 
escort. They left Mourzouk, the capital of Fezzan, in 
November, 1822, and commenced the journey across 
the sandy desert. By February, 1823, they had 
reached the shores of Lake Chad, and on the 17 th 
they arrived at Kuka, the capital of the Bornu State. 
Clapperton and Oudney, after a delay of many 
months, set out for Kano and the Houssa State. 
])r. Oudney died on the road in January, 1824, but 
Clapperton pressed onwards, passed through Kano, 
and arrived at Sokoto, the capital of a new State 
recently founded by a Muslim people called Fulahs. 
He hoped to continue his journey to Yuri, and 
complete the work left unfinished by Park. But the 
Sultan of Sokoto raised obstacles, and Clapperton was 
obliged to abandon his plan, and return to Bornu and 
Fezzan, reaching Tripoli early in 1825. It was then 
resolved to send Clapperton to Sokoto, in order to 
establish direct intercourse with the Sultan, and it was 
decided that he should proceed to his destination by 
landing in the Gulf of Benin. Eventually, Clapperton 


landed at Badagri, near Lagos, in December, 1825, 
but all the members of his party were obliged to 
remain behind, owing to attacks of fever, and he 
proceeded with only one companion, his servant, 
Richard Lander. They reached the Niger at the 
point where Park had lost his life, and proceeded 
thence to Sokoto. Here Captain Clapperton suc- 
cumbed to fever, dying in April, 1827. Lander 
resolved to carry out his late master's intention ot 
tracing the Niger to its mouth; but first he went 
down to the coast at Badagri and brought home 
his master's journal. The Government accepted his 
proposal to complete the work, and he landed at 
Badagri again, with his brother John as a com- 
panion, in March, 1830. Having reached Yuri, on 
the Niger, the brothers obtained two canoes, and 
commenced the descent of the river. They 
passed a range of mountains, which has since 
been named after Major Rennell, and entered the 
wide reach at the confluence of the Benue. Con- 
tinuing the descent, they came to the sea on the 
24th of November, 1830. 

This discovery immediately led to the inauguration 
of enterprises with. the object of opening the trade 
of the Niger region. Macgregor Laird fitted out two 
steamers at Liverpool, and went out, accompanied by 
Mr. Lander and Lieutenant Bird Allen, an accomplished 
naval surveyor. They were engaged in exploring the 
Niger delta for several weeks, and in the following 
season Lander ascended the Benue for a considerable 
distance. But the great majority of the men died 
of fever, and Richard Lander, having been shot, was 
conveyed to Fernando Po, where he expired in 1832. 

All this work was proceeding during the last ten 


years of Major Rennell's life. There can be no 
doubt that the Government expeditions were due to 
the initiative of the African Association, and that the 
second enterprise of Mungo Park, as well as the 
subsequent expeditions of Denham, Clapperton, and 
Lander, all resulted from the first journey of Park, 
which was conceived, organized, and despatched by 
the Association. Rennell was always deeply interested 
in the question of the outlet of the Niger. He had 
carefully studied every authority on the subject, from 
Herodotus to Mungo Park. The latter believed that 
the Niger flowed into the Congo ; but the weight of 
evidence was that mountains intervened between the 
Niger and the Gulf of Guinea, and that, consequently, 
the great river flowed eastward until it was lost 
in some central lake. Major Rennell adopted this 
view provisionally, but without any strong bias, as is 
clearly proved by his private correspondence on the 

It is true that as early as 1816 Mr. James M'Queen 
had started a theory — which eventually proved to be 
correct — that the Niger entered the ocean in the Bight 
of Benin, and in 1821 he brought out a fuller treatise 
on the subject. But his evidence consisted of stories 
told him by negroes on an estate in the West Indies, 
and other equally reliable informants. It was little 
more than a lucky guess, and not suflicient to alter 
the opinions of serious and thoughtful students. 
M'Queen misrepresented the words of Rennell, making 
him say that the Niger disappeared in wastes of sand, 
or became evaporated in swamps under the heat of a 
tropical sun. Major Rennell said nothing of the kind. 
He always used the word lake, referring to the large 
central lake of Edrisi, and others, as the possible 

RENNELL's services to AFRICA. 143 

receiver of the Niger, if the Kong Mountains separated 
it from the sea."^ 

In his old age Major Rennell watched for the 
solution of the Niger question with ever-increasing 
interest. He expected much from Major Denham. 
When the news of Clapper ton's journey from Lake 
Chad to Sokoto reached England, the great geographer 
must have seen that the Niger did not flow eastward, 
as he had supposed ; but he did not live long enough 
to receive the full solution of the problem. Major 
Rennell died in the very month that Richard Lander 
reached the mouth of the Niger. 

African geography owes much to the elucidations 
of Rennell and to his indefatigable research. His 
admirable disquisition on the delta of the Nile is a 
masterly contribution to physical science. His identi- 
fication of Lake Tritonis of Herodotus with the Lesser 
Syrtis of later writers has been generally accepted. 
His disquisition on the alleged circumnavigation of 
Africa by the Phoenicians has exhausted that question, 
and he arranged all the facts — historical and scientific 
— with such lucidity, that any one may form a judg- 
ment on them with the assurance that all the premises 
are before him. His examination of the Periplus of 
Hanno is a masterpiece of critical reasoning, supported 
by every consideration that bears on the subject. 

* Mr. Joseph Thomson, in his ** Life of Mungo Park," speaks with 
exaggerated admiration of M'Queen's imaginary geography, and 
sneers at Major Rennell as "an arm-chair geographer," and as *'the 
man with one idea." It is a strange misconception to speak of the 
surveyor of Bengal, who worked in the field for fifteen years, and was 
broken down by wounds and fevers, as an ** arm-chair geographer ; " 
and a still stranger misconception to refer to the savant who, of all 
others, was most open to conviction, and the most tolerant of adverse 
opinions, as " the man with one idea." 

144 rennell's services 

RennelVs hydrographic knowledge here throws light 
on points which would otherwise be obscure, and his 
furthest point reached by Hanno is now generally 
accepted. The map of Northern Africa, prepared for 
the use of the Association, marks an important era in 
the progress of discovery. It is the result of immense 
research, combined with sagacious and thoughtful 
reasoning, and is decidedly in advance of D'Anville. 

Rennell's latest African work embraced his eluci- 
dations of the reports of explorers employed by the 
Association, and his maps to illustrate their travels. 
With regard to the journals of Homemann, the great 
geographer compared his statements and measure- 
ments with the work of Browne and with the accounts 
of the Arabian geographers. He was thus enabled to 
improve the delineation of the region between Egypt 
and Fezzan, with its interesting oases, and also to 
correct the positions of Mourzouk and other places 
in Fezzan. Rennell often had to work with very 
inadequate materials, but he always had a generous 
word for the shortcomings of explorers. Speaking of 
Hornemann, he ^vrote : — " Very great allowances must 
be made for the situation in which he was placed, and 
the difficulty he had in supporting the character he 
had assumed." 

Perhaps Rennell's greatest service to African geo- 
graphy was the way in which he worked up the rough 
notes of Mungo Park, examining his daily routes with 
the greatest care, comparing them critically with the 
work of all previous travellers and cartographers, and 
bringing all the materials into harmony so far as 
was possible. These labours enabled him to con- 
struct a map of the discoveries of Mungo Park, which 
served to illustrate his travels. Rennell's map and 


geographical memoir were valuable additions to 
Park's volume. 

The African researches and labours of the great 
geographer extended over many years, and the deep 
and intelligent interest he took in the progress of 
discovery only ended with his life. 



RennelVs Current 

Major Rennell was, before all things, a sailor. He 
never forgot that he had been a midshipman. He 
showed this in the deep interest he always took in 
naval affairs, in the friendships he retained and in the 
new friendships he made, in his correspondence, and, 
above all, in the enormous amount of labour and 
trouble he devoted to the study of winds and currents : 
to the branch of his science which is now called 
oceanography. His numerous naval friends furnished 
him with a great mass of materials from their logs 
and note-books, and he prosecuted his inquiries with 
untiring zeal during a long course of years. It was in 
about 1810 that he began to reduce his collections to 
one general system, receiving much assistance from 
Mr. John Purdy, the eminent hydrographer. 

The first chart published by Major Rennell was of 
the banks and currents at the LaguUas, in South 
Africa, dated November, 1778, and inscribed to Sir 
George Wombwell, the Chairman of Directors of the 
East India Company. His accompanying memoir 
was printed, forty years afterwards, in Purdy's 
"Oriental Navigation." In 1797 the Court of 
Directors resolved to have surveys executed of the 
Isle of Wight, the Isle of Thanet, and other parts 


of the coast of England, "for the purpose of ascer- 
taining the most eligible situation for a depot for 
receiving, training, and disciplining recruits for India." 
Major Rennell was requested to give his assistance to 
the Committee of Shipping, with a view to the 
execution of these surveys. He had previously, in 
1793, presented the Court with a chart of Mount's 
Bay and the adjacent coasts. At this time, also, he 
was in correspondence on naval and other subjects 
with his constant friend Lord Spencer, who was First 
Lord of the Admiralty from 1794 to 1800. Among 
Major RenneU's letters preserved at Spencer House, 
there is one, dated 1795, in which he discusses the 
construction of floating batteries in much detail. In 
1799 the question of fire occupied Lord Spencer's 
attention, in consequence of an accident on board 
some man-of-war, and we find his lordship discussing 
details of fire quarters with Major Rennell down to 
the special beat of the drum. Other letters are on 
subjects not relating to naval matters. One discusses 
the courses and positions of waters in the Hudson's 
Bay Company's territory and the routes across the 
North American Continent. Another gives a graphic 
account of a case of suttee witnessed by Major and 
Mrs. Rennell. 

In 1792 we find Major Rennell taking a deep 
interest in the dawn of the science of geology. Dr. 
John Hunter, the eminent physician, had written 
some observations and reflections on geology, intended 
to serve as an introduction to the catalogue of his 
collection ot tossils.* Dr. Hunter had sent his 

♦Printed in 1859 (p. 68) with Major Rennell's letter. I am 
indebted to Sir William Flower for calling my attention to Dr. 
Hunter's interesting pamphlet. 

J 2 


manuscript to Major Rennell for his remarks. In 
returning it, Major Rennell Avrote : — " I have kept 
your manuscript longer than I ought to have done, 
but it was that I might read it over more than once, 
and have such intervals between the readings that the 
arrangement might in some measure appear new to 
me : a practice I follow with regard to my own 
compositions, for reasons that you, no doubt, have 
long ago thought of. I have been very much, in- 
structed and interested throughout, and shall be glad 
to see the remainder of it when completed. I have 
indeed read it three times, by way of first reading, 
commitment, and report." He then arranged a 
meeting with Dr. Hunter to discuss various points ; 
but meanwhile, he offered one observation on the 
desirability of respecting prejudices, which is interest- 
ing. He says : " At page 3 you have used the term 
"many thousands of centuries,' which brings us almost 
to the yogues of the Hindus. Now, although I have 
no quarrel with any opinions relating to the antiquity 
of the globe, yet there exists a description of pei'sons 
very numerous and very respectable in every point, 
except their pardonable superstitions, who will dislike 
any mention of a specific period that ascends beyond 
6,000 years. I would therefore, with submission, 
qualify the expression by saying 'many thousand 
years,' instead of * centuries.' " Rennell lived to see 
the science of geology, which had its earliest dawn in 
this country in the pamphlet of John Hunter, become 
a recognised branch of research, with a Society of its 
own, and a series of rapidly succeeding discoveries 
developed by numerous ardent and enthusiastic 

Rennell was himself the founder of another branch 


of the science of geography, which has since been 
called oceanography. His current charts and memoirs 
were completed, although they were not published in 
his life-time. He himself pointed out that the work 
could not have been usefully undertaken at any earlier 
period ; because until the method of ascertaining 
longitude by chronometer had been invented and put 
in practice, the necessary positions could not have 
been fixed, and current charts could not have been 
drawn with any approach to accuracy. 

The discovery of a method of finding the longitude 
at sea had long been a desideratum. In 1714 an Act 
of Parliament was passed, oflfering rewards from 
ten thousand pounds to twenty thousand pounds for 
the discovery, and creating a Board of Longitude, 
which included the Astronomer-Royal, the President 
of the Royal Society, and the Master of the Trinity 
House. At length, in 1726, a time-keeper, constructed 
by Mr. Harrison, was the means of correcting an error 
of a degree and a half between London and Lisbon. 
Harrison made still more accurate watches between 
1739 and 1760. In the year 1761, his son, William 
Harrison, embarked for Jamaica with his father's 
most improved watch, and on his arrival it was only 
one and a quarter minute from the true longitude. 
Eventually, but after long and unjust delay, the 
Harrisons received the reward of twenty thousand 
pounds, and from that time the system of finding the 
longitude at sea by chronometer was established. 
Neville Maskelyne, the Astronomer-Royal, had 
commenced the issue of a " Nautical Almanack " in 
1767, containing tables of declination and distances 
of the moon from the sun and fixed stars, computed 
for the meridian of Greenwich, expressly designed for 


finding the longitude at sea. The "Nautical 
Almanack" has been published annually ever since, 
and has been much enlarged. 

These improvements in the science of navigation 
enabled an idea of the direction and force of ocean 
currents to be formed in some detail Progress in the 
knowledge of ocean currents has consequently been 
very rapid since the invention of chronometers. The 
use of such knowledge is sufBciently obvious; for 
in whatsoever direction a portion of the ocean may 
move, it must either favour or impede a ship's coui*se. 
A knowledge of the currents will, therefore, enable 
the navigator so to shape his course as to avoid delay 
or danger. Major Rennell supplies examples : — " For 
instance, a just idea of the nature of the equatorial 
current would prevent a commander from crossing 
the equator too far to the westward in the southern 
passage, particularly at the season when the S.E. 
trade wind is very far southerly, and when also the 
current runs so strongly to the westward in the 
neighbourhood of Cape St. Roque as to hazard his 
being driven to leeward of it. Again, a winter 
passage round the Cape of Good Hope to the westward 
may depend on keeping in the stream of the Lagullas 
current. So that it was very truly said before 
chronometers came into use, by Sir Charles Blagden, 
in writing of the Gulf Stream in 1778, that hitherto 
the difficulty of ascertaining currents is well known 
to be one of the greatest defects in the present state 
of navigation." 

Major RennelFs work was iSrst to collect materials 
for illustrating and explaining the subject of the 
currents of the ocean generally, more particularly 
for those in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and then 


to form a system in conformity with the observations. 
His personal knowledge and his professional experience 
as a sailor furnished him with the means of appreci- 
ating the value of the materials at his disposal, as well 
as of adding, in some instances, the results of inquiries 
and observations made on the spot. " The formation 
of a great number of facts into a system," wrote 
Kennell, " may prove of use in impressing those facts 
on the mind more strongly than would be the case it 
they were left to operate independently of each other ; 
for a fact often makes less impression when standing 
naked and alone than when it makes part of a system, 
which operates like a band to keep the parts together 
in their proper places, when they explain and illustrate 
each other." 

His volume on the winds and currents is confined 
to the principal streams in the North and South 
Atlantic Ocean, and those which pass between the 
Indian and South Atlantic Ocean round the Cape. 
It also treats of the regions of the trade winds in the 
two Atlantics, showing the changes that take place in 
the different parallels and seasons. But although the 
scope of Major Rennell's volume was thus confined, 
he had acquired by diligent inquiry an extensive 
knowledge of the winds and currents in the Pacific 
Ocean and other parts of the world. 

As the winds are to be regarded as the prime 
movers of the currents of the ocean, Major Rennell 
commences by explaining the directions of the trade 
winds and monsoons, and the changes to which they 
are subject. Although trade winds are denominated 
N.E. and S.E., yet they both vary at different 
seasons and in different parallels, for they have at all 
seasons a direct tendency to blow towards the place 


of the sun, or less wide of it. Thus the N.E. trade 
is uiore northerly when the sun is in the southern 
signs, and the S.E. more southerly in the opposite 
season. Both trades also, when free from monsoon 
influence, blow more southerly and northerly in 
regions adjoining to the old continents than towards 
the middle of the ocean, so that as we recede from the 
coast the wind gradually becomes more and more 
easterly, and finally almost an easterly wind. 

After discussing the trade winds and monsoons, 
Major Rennell devotes a section to a general view of 
the system of currents m the Atlantic. The first 
in his system is the South Atlantic current. A 
stream oft* the Cape of Good Hope which makes its 
way round the Cape and the Bank of LaguUas is a 
part of the LaguUas current. By the time that it 
reaches the mouth of the Congo it has become a 
powerful and extensive stream. It turns to the west- 
ward along the equator with the bend of the land, 
while the Guinea current from the North Atlantic 
passes within it to the Bight of Benin. The South 
Atlantic current continues its course along both sides 
of the equator, becoming an equatorial current, and 
forming a wide and complete bar across the narrow part 
of the Atlantic between Guinea and Brazil. Between 
the two continents it sends oft* a large branch to 
the N.W., while the main stream turns W.S.W 
towards Cape St. Roque, where it subsides, part 
going towards the West Indies, the rest along the 
coast of Brazil and Patagonia. The N.W. equatorial 
stream enters the Caribbean Sea through the passages 
between the islands. 

Thus the Gulf of Mexico is supplied with the great 
head of water which makes it the reservoir of the 


Gulf Stream. Rennell looked upon the Gulf Stream 
in the nature of an immense river descending from a 
higher level into a plain. Commencing at the head of 
the Florida Strait, it pursues its way, not far from the 
coast of the United States, to Cape Hatteras, where 
the coast turns more to the left, while the stream is 
gradually deviated more and more to the eastward, 
finally pointing E.N.E., until it touches the parallel 
of 44° 80' N. in about 43° W., or midway between 
New York and Cape Finisterre. This idea of a river 
in the ocean was thus due to the imaginative mind of 
Rennell, although it was adopted and amplified by 
Maury in his "Physical Geography of the Sea." 
Rennell held that the Gulf Stream terminated on 
the western side of the Azores, and that some of its 
waters thence passed southwards, carrying with it a 
great deposit of the sargasso, or gulf weed. Another 
portion is propelled by westerly winds towards the 
Bay of Biscay and the coast of Morocco. Rennell 
was furnished with no less than ten different tra- 
verses, or crossings, of the Gulf Stream, in which the 
temperatures were registered ; and he was also in pos- 
session of a very considerable number of examples 
of the direction and rate of the stream. 

Major Rennell next proceeds to investigate the 
Arctic current, which, coming from Greenland, strikes 
the Gulf Stream to the east of the Great Bank of New- 
foundland, in about 44** N., and between the meridians 
of 44"^ and 47° W. But his observations respecting 
the Arctic current were by no means so full and 
complete as those relating to the Gulf Stream ; and 
the former was first properly examined and explained 
by Mr. Redfield in 1838, and by the operations of the 
United States Coast Survey. It was found that the 


Gulf Stream closes with the land at Cape Hatteras, 
and in its subsequent progress to the N.N.K 
maintains a nearly perpendicular wall of warm water, 
in contact with the cold Arctic current flowing south. 
Mr. Findlay has since pointed out that the fact of the 
non-blending of the warm tropical with the cold 
Arctic waters, when in juxtaposition, gives great 
weight to a suggestion made by Mr. Redfield that 
the Arctic current passes under the Gulf Stream. 
The bifurcation of the Gulf Stream discovered by 
Professor Bache off Cape Hatteras was also unknown 
to Rennell. 

Few circumstances of the kind have occasioned 
more surprise than the distance to which the warm 
water of the Gulf Stream is carried in its progress 
through the Atlantic Ocean, and the vast extent of 
the warm water. Rennell was enabled to prepare two 
Tables of the Temperatures through the whole extent 
of the Stream, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Azorea 
His calculation was that the stream, in running 
through about 3,060 miles, and altering its latitude 
eighteen degrees, diminishes its temperature about 
thirteen and a half degrees, and may be supposed to 
occupy from seventy-six to seventy-eight days on its 

In November, 1776, Dr. Franklin, on a voyage 
from Philadelphia to France, observed that he was 
never out of the warm water of the Gulf Stream, 
showing that it occasionally extends to the coast of 
Europe. The distance from the island of Corvo to 
the head of the Bay of Biscay is about 1,150 miles 
and it was found by three different observers that the 
velocity of the stream, in August and September of 
different years, was from thirty to thirty-three miles 


during the twenty-four hours, between the meridians 
of 41'' and 45° W. At about 40** the stream begins 
to turn towards the south of east, and gradually- 
round to S.E. to Corvo and Flores, while its velocity 
is much reduced. Rennell concluded that the Gulf 
Stream terminated at the Azores in ordinary years, 
and that, in the instance noted by Dr. Franklin, the 
body of the stream had a more than usual degree of 
velocity, making it continue on the course through 
the Atlantic instead of turning to the south. Nothing 
higher, in ocean temperatures, had been observed 
between the Azores and the shores of Europe since 
Dr. Franklin's voyage in 1776, until Captain Sabine 
found a similar result in 1821. 

Subsequent research proved that the Gulf Stream 
does not stop at the Azores, though it ceases to be a 
weed-bearing current. A portion is diverted to the 
N.E., and the rest passes towards Madeira, and strikes 
on the shores of Morocco. 

Major Rennell defines the North African and 
Guinea current as caused by an accumulation of 
water towards the eastern and south-eastern parts of 
the tract to the northward of the Gulf Stream, which 
runs off to the S.E. Originating between 43° and 53° 
N., the stream called the North African and Guinea 
current runs to the south-east and south as far as the 
coast of Guinea. It is augmented in its way by drift 
currents, so as to become a powerful stream. A ship 
sailing southward from England will generally find 
a south-easterly current between the Bay of Biscay 
and Madeira, which becomes east in the parallel of 
the Strait of Gibraltar. Its rate is from twelve to 
twenty miles a day. Rennell observes that it is this 
current which often occasions unwary navigators to 


be thrown ashore, even in fair weather, on the coast 
of the Sahara. He found that the study of the North 
African stream was intricate, as it has various rami- 
fications which take different directions, though all of 
them, except those which point towards the entrance 
of the Strait of Gibraltar to supply its current, point 
in some degree southward. From about sixty miles 
N.W. of Cape St. Vincent to Cape. Cantin the ciurents 
from every quarter point towards the Straits* mouth 
as to the pipe of a funnel, of which the reservoir is 
the semicircular space between Cape St. Vincent and 
Cape Cantin. But it does not seem to have been 
suspected, in Rennell's time, that this influence extends 
very far into the Atlantic in different directions, and 
especially during the summer, when the evaporation 
of the Mediterranean, which these currents are 
supposed to displace, must be greatly increased. 

From the Straits' mouth to Cape Bojador, the 
motion of the sea, for a distance of a hundred leagues 
from shore, points obliquely towards the land, and 
much the same state of things prevails as far as Cape 
Blanco, at the rate of half-a-mile per hour. At times 
this inset is much stronger than at others. M. D*Apres 
reported that vessels had made the land of Africa, 
when they expected to have made Teneriffe. From 
whatsoever cause it may arise, the effect of this drift 
towards the shore has caused numberless shipwrecks. 
RenncU adds: — " Perhaps no other current in the ocean 
has ever produced so much misery to sailors and 
passengers. It is the operation of these currents that 
has placed from time to time a number of shipwrecked 
captives of all nations in the hands of the barbarous 
tribes on the western edge of the great African 
Desert, who sell the survivors to the scarcely less 


barbarous people of Morocco. These accidents appear 
to owe their immediate cause to the wish to save a 
little distance by making a straighter course, and 
keeping nearer to the shore. In reality, their progress 
would on the whole be much greater if they sailed 
more at large until they had passed Cape Blanco ; for 
the winds are more steady outside, and the current is 
directly in their favour, which is not always the case 
nearer the land. The coast of the desert, being very 
low, cannot be seen at a distance, so that it happens 
that a ship which, by the gradual operation of the 
current on her course, has been carried towards the 
shore, arrives so near it by the evening that, if it had 
been of ordinary height, it might have been seen and 
avoided. Continuing her course during the night, 
she runs on shore before those on board are aware of 
the vicinity of the land or of being in soundings. 
This seems to have been the case of Admiral Keppel 
in the voyage to Gori, during the seven years' war. 
The Lichfield, of fifty guns, was lost, and her crew 
made slaves, while the rest of the squadron had a 
narrow escape." 

Rennell makes this current follow the whole West 
Coast of Africa to the Bight of Biafra as the Guinea 
current ; but before arriving at the Cape Verdes, it 
would trend off to the S.S.W. and S.W., the direction 
of the trade wind in this part. Multiplied subsequent 
observations have shown that such is the fact. Mr. 
Findlay, in 1853, pointed out an origin of the Guinea 
current not hitherto suspected. The Guinea current, 
he held, is a portion of the equatorial current itself, 
here deflected, and coming from the westward between 
5° and 10" N. It is, in fact, a warm current, while the 
North African current is comparatively cold. The 


main body of the North African current turns to the 
S.S.W. and S.W., and then to the west, joining the 
equatorial stream, and the circulation is thus around 
the Sargasso Sea, which lies almost across the 
Atlantic, in the parallel of SO" N. The circulation 
of the surface waters of the Atlantic round this central 
space is thus satisfactorily explained. Maury illus- 
trates the matter in his graphic way: — "If a bit of 
cork, or any floating surface, be put into a basin, and 
a circular motion be given to the water, all the light 
substances will be found crowding together near the 
centre of the pool, where there is the least motion. 
Just such a basin is the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf 
Stream, and the Sargasso Sea is the centre of the 
whirl. Columbus first found this weedy sea in his 
voyage of discovery, and there it has remained to this 
day, moving up and down, and changing its position, 
like the calms of Cancer, according to the seasons, the 
storms, and the winds." 

The increase of waters brought into the Atlantic 
by the Arctic current is compensated for by the outlet 
along the Norwegian coast. 

It was on reaching the Cape Verde Islands with 
his North African current that Rennell made his 
mistake. Instead of assuming, as is the case, that it 
turned west into the equatorial stream, he continued 
its direction south and south-east, supposing that the 
North African and Guinea currents were one stream. 
On this question he had studied the journals of 
Captain Cook, Admiral Bligh, Captains Krusenstern, 
and Lisiansky. He considered that it had been 
satisfactorily ascertained that this Guinea current 
was four degrees in breadth, because Captain Cook's 
two tracks of 1772 and 1776 through it were at that 


distance from each other. It is now well established 
that the Guinea current is not a continuation of the 
North African current, but that it is the eastern 
portion of a counter equatorial current. Mr. Buchanan 
found the easterly current to be very strong, especially 
inshore, along the coast of Guinea ; and north of the 
island of St. Thome there are large areas of river 
water from the Niger on the surface, with the Guinea 
current water below. It was found that this Guinea 
current experienced marked variations with the 
seasons. But this counter equatorial current still 
requires investigation. Mr. Buchanan says that " it 
is particularly interesting, and its dynamics obscure. 
Its range is very superficial, and its physical conditions 
can be studied without the elaborate and costly equip- 
ment required for the research of oceanic depths." 

Major Rennell did not succeed in collecting in- 
formation respecting the northern flow of the waters 
of the Gulf Stream. Crossing the fortieth degree of 
latitude, the warm water spreads itself out over the 
cold waters around, and, in Maury's words, " covers 
the ocean with a mantle of warmth that serves so 
much to mitigate in Europe the rigours of winter. 
Moving more slowly, but dispensing its genial in- 
fluences more freely, it finally meets the British Isles, 
and flows thence into the Polar Sea, between Spitz- 
bergen and Novaya Zemlya.'* Nor was it possible for 
Rennell to describe the Arctic currents with any 
precision, because the necessary observations had not 
then been taken. He had the results of work done 
by Captain Beaufort off Newfoundland in 1808, those 
of Sir John Duckworth, and the observations of 
Captain Parry on the currents in Davis Strait and 
along the coast of Labrador. 

160 rennell's current. 

The current now known as Rennell's Current was 
brought to the notice of the Royal Society in papers 
read on the 6th of June, 1793, and April 13th, 1815. The 
title of the first paper was " Observations on a Current 
that often prevails to the westward of Scilly, endanger- 
ing the safety of ships that approach the English 
Channel, and now known by the name of Rennell's 

It had long been well known to seamen that ships 
in coming from the Atlantic and steering a course for 
the Bristol Channel in a parallel somewhat to the 
south of the Scillies often find themselves to the north 
of those islands. This extraordinary error has passed 
for the effect either of bad steerage, bad observations 
for latitude, or the indraught of the Bristol Channel. 
But none of these reasons account for it satisfactorily. 
Admitting that there is an indraught at times, it 
cannot be supposed to extend to Scilly, and the case 
has happened in weather most favourable for naviga- 
tion and for taking observations. The consequences 
of this deviation from the intended track have very 
often been fatal. There was the loss of the Nancy 
packet, in Rennell's own time. But the most memor- 
able instance was that of Sir Cloudesley Shovel, when 
he was returning from the Mediterranean with twenty 
sail of vessels. With his flag on board the Association, 
Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel brought his fleet into 
soundings on October 23rd, 1707, with a fresh gale at 
S.S.W., but hazy weather. In the evening he made 
more sail, believing that he saw the Lizard Light. 
Soon afterwards several ships made the signal of 
danger, and the Association struck on the rock 
called the " Bishop and Clerks." Two other ships, 
the Eciijle and Romney were lost, with all on board,. 

rennell's current. 161 

Sir George Byng's flagship was saved through that 
officer's presence of mind when the rocks were 
almost under his main channels. This melancholy 
catastrophe created great consternation in England, 
for Sir Cloudesley Shovel was universally respected 
and was very popular. 

Numbers of cases, equally melancholy, but of less 
notoriety, have occurred, and many others in which 
the danger has been imminent have scarcely reached 
the public ear. All had been referred to accident; 
and consequently, no attempt had been made to 
investigate their causes. Major Rennell came to the 
conclusion that they may all be imputed to a specific 
cause : namely, a current. The object of his paper 
was to investigate both the current and its effects, 
that seamen might be apprised of the times when 
they should expect to feel its influence ; for at such 
times only it is likely to occasion mischief. The 
current that prevails at ordinary times is probably 
too weak to occasion a serious error in the reckoning, 
equal to the difference of parallel between the south 
part of the Scilly and the fair way up channel, such 
as a prudertt commander, unsuspicious ot a current, 
would choose to sail in. 

As a midshipman on board the Brilliant, in 1757, 
Rennell sailed close along the coast of Spain ; and he 
remembered, amongst the earKest hydrographical 
facts that were stored in his memory, that there was 
always a current setting round Cape Finisterre and 
Ortegal into the Bay of Biscay. The fact was con- 
firmed to him in fuller detail by Captain Mendoza 
Rios, of the Spanish navy. This current sets to the 
eastward along the coast of Spain, and continues its 
course along the coast of France to the north and 

162 rennell's current. 

north-west. Rennell supposed the original cause of the 
current to be the prevalence of westerly winds in the 
Atlantic. The stronger the wind, the more water 
would be driven into the Bay of Biscay in a given 
time ; and the longer the continuance of the wind, the 
farther will the vein of current extend. 

It is clearly proved that a current of water, after 
running along a coast that suddenly changes its 
direction, does not alter its course with the shore, but 
the main body of it preserves for a considerable time 
the general direction which it received from the coast 
it last ran by. There is such a change in the direc- 
tion of the coast on the French shore at Penmarch, 
south of Brest ; so that the current of the Bay of 
Biscay continues its course N.W. by W. from the 
coast of France to the westward of the Scilly Islands, 
and to Ireland. In ordinary times its strength may 
not be sufficient to preserve its line of direction across 
the mouth of the English Channel. But that a 
current prevails generally there can be little doubt, 
and its degree of strength will be regulated by the 
state of the winds. After a long interval of moderate 
westerly winds it may be hardly perceptible ; but after 
hard and continued gales from the western quarter 
the current will be felt in a considerable degree of 
strength, not only off the Scillies, but also along the 
south-west coast of Ireland. 

Major Rennell was told by his Mend Mr. Smeaton, 
the builder of the Eddystone, that he tried ah 
experiment to ascertain the power of the wind on 
water. In a canal four miles long the water was kept 
up four inches higher at one end than at the other 
by the mere action of a moderate breeze along the 
canal. The effect of a strong north-west or pouth- 

rennell's current. 163 

west wind on our own coast is to raise very high tides 
in the English Channel, or in the Thames, and on the 
eastern coasts, as those winds respectively blow, 
because the water that is accumulated cannot escape 
quickly enough by the Straits of Dover to allow of 
the level being preserved. The Baltic, also, is kept 
up two feet at least by a strong N.W. wind of any 
continuance ; and the Caspian is higher by several 
feet at either end as a strong northerly or southerly 
wind prevails. Therefore, as water pent up in a 
situation from which it cannot escape acquires a 
higher level, so in a place where it can escape the 
same operation produces a current, and this current 
will extend to a greater or less distance, according to 
the force with which it is set in motion. 

Major Rennell got his first idea of the existence of 
this current in the Bay of Biscay when he was returning 
from India on board the Hector (Captain Williams), in 
1778. Between 42" and 49° N. they encountered very 
strong westerly gales, but particularly between the 
16th and 24th of January, when, at intervals, it blew 
with uncommon violence. Rennell afterwards learnt 
that the gale extended from Nova Scotia to the coast 
of Spain. On the 30th of January the Hector arrived 
within sixty or seventy leagues of the meridian of 
Scilly, keeping between the parallels of 49° and 50° N. ; 
and about this time a current began to be felt, which 
set the ship to the north of her intended latitude by 
half a degree in two days, and thirty leagues to the 
west. The wind being scant and light, they could not 
overcome the tendency of this current. They were 
not only sensible of the current by the observations 
for latitude, but by ripplings on the surface of the 
water and by the direction of the lead-line. The 
K 2 

164 rennell's current. 

consequence of all this was that they were driven to 
the north of Scilly, and were barely able to shape a 
course through the passage between those islands and 
the Land's End. 

The journal of the Atlas ^ East Indiaman (Captain 
Cooper), furnished Major Rennell with still clearer 
proofs both of the existence of the current and of 
the rate of its motion, because Captain Cooper was 
provided with chronometers, while the Hector was not. 
The Atlas left the Lsle of Wight on January 25th, 
1787, and on the 27th was fifty-five leagues to the 
westward of Ushant. On that day a violent gale of 
wind began to blow from the south, changing 
suddenly to west after eleven hours. The gale con- 
tinued through the four following days. During this 
long interval the ship was generally lying-to, with her 
head N.W. The wind abated on the 1st of February, 
still blowing from the S.W., and the ship's head was 
kept N.W. The stormy weather returned the follow- 
ing day, and continued, with little intermission, until 
the 11th. The weather then became more moderate, 
and the ship proceeded on its way to the south. 

It was found that by the 2nd of February the 
Atlas had been set two whole degrees of longitude to 
the westward of her reckoning since the 30th, at noon. 
The Atlas y in fact, experienced a westerly current 
from a point twenty-four leagues W.S.W. of Scilly to 
four degrees of longitude W. of the meridian of Cape 
Clear, where its influence was no longer perceptible. 
There must also have been a northerly set, although it 
is not recorded. 

Major Rennell concluded his first paper with some 
valuable practical sailing directions in crossing the 
current. He advised the Government to send a 

rennell's current. 165 

vessel, with chronometers on board, to examine and 
note the soundings between Scilly and Ushant. He 
believed that the existing chart of soundings was 
very bad : indeed, it could not be otherwise, con- 
sidering the very imperfect state of marine surveying 
at the time when it was made. The surveyor so 
employed, he recommended, should note all the 
varieties of bottom, as well as the depths, the time 
of high and low water, the set of tides, and the 
currents. Such a survey, he concluded, skilfully con- 
ducted, might enable mariners to supply the want 
of observations for latitude and longitude, and, of 
course, to defy the current, as far as relates to its 
power of misleading them. These remarks of Major 
Rennell were frequently quoted by other writers, and 
they had a strong effect on the minds of the Lords of 
the Admiralty. It was, no doubt, due to them that 
the present excellent surveys of the Channel were 

In his second paper on the subject of this current, 
read on April 12th, 1815, Rennell submitted some 
additional evidence of great interest. He adduced 
the journals of several ships, the East Indiamen being 
all supplied with chronometers, showing that a 
current flows eastward along the north coast of 
Spain. Off Cape Ortegal, Admiral Knight found the 
current setting nearly along shore, at the rate of one 
mile per hour. It was undoubtedly this current which 
was the cause of the disaster to the Apollo in 1803. 
She sailed for the West Indies with a convoy of 
sixty-nine sail of merchant ships, and on April 
2nd the Apollo struck the ground during the middle 
watch, to the utter astonishment of every one on 
board. When morning broke, it was seen that thirty 

166 rennell's current. 

of the merchantmen were also on the rocks near 
Mondego Bay, in Portugal. It was this disaster that 
made Captain Markham, then one of the Lords of 
the Admiralty, insist upon men-of-war being supplied 
with chronometers. East Indiamen had been so 
supplied several years previously. 

The course of the current round the Bay of Biscay 
had long been known to French navigators. One 
circumstance, proving the northerly course of the 
current, is very striking. The soundings in the Bay 
of Biscay show little or no muddy bottom to the 
southward of the River Gironde, but everywhere to 
the northward. This shows that the mud of the 
Gironde, Charente, and Loire is all carried northward 
by a northerly current. The alluvial emboiuchurea of 
the rivers in general on this coast, and the positions 
of the banks formed by them in the sea, also point tO' 
the north and north-west as the effect of the same 

The most satisfactory proof, in the opinion of 
Major Rennell, not only of the existence of a 
northerly current athwart the mouths of the English 
and Irish Channels, but also of its velocity in certain 
periods, is a statement in a book, entitled "Joshua 
Kelly's Treatise of Navigation," published in 1733. It 
appears that in a voyage from the West Indies an 
experienced commander observed that in about 
48° 30' N., it became calm, and remained so for 
forty-eight hours, with clear weather, so that he could 
get good observations for latitude. In twenty-four 
hours he found that his ship had drifted twenty miles 
to the northward, and in the next twenty-four hours 
he had drifted twenty-six miles in the same direction. 
The current is the more dangerous because it is not 

rennell's current. 167 

continuous, but only exists in strength at certain 

The current, about the occasional force of which 
there is now no doubt, has received the name of 
Rennell's Current. 

On June 22nd, 1809, Major Rennell read another 
paper before the Royal Society on the effect of 
westerly winds in raising the level of the English 
Channel, the subject having been suggested by the 
loss of the East Indiaman Britannia on the Goodwin 
Sands. He attributed the loss to a current produced 
by strong westerly winds in raising the level of the 
English Channel, and the escape of the superincum- 
bent waters through the Straits of Dover at a time 
when the Northern Sea was at a lower level. 

In those days Messrs. Laurie and Whittle were the 
principal publishers of charts and sailing directions, 
and they took care that Rennell's paper on the Bay 
of Biscay current should be made known to seamen 
by being published and widely circulated. It was 
this firm which presented Major Rennell with " Kelly's 
Book of Navigation"; and in acknowledging his receipt 
of the present, in a letter dated January 20th, 1809, 
he said : — " Having been accustomed to navigation 
books since the year 1756, 1 must have seen twenty or 
thirty difierent ones, but I never met with Kelly's 
work. I have now perused it, and derived much 
valuable information from it. Accept my best thanks 
for the honour you have done me in putting forth 
my current paper to so much advantage. There is 
nothing that gratifies me more than the testimony of 
being useful when that testimony comes from 
intelligent and useful persons." 

Although Major Rennell was unable to complete 


his system by reviewing the currents of the Pacific 
and other oceans, he had studied the whole subject 
with great care. We find evidence of this in his 
private correspondence ; especially in letters to naval 
friends of a younger generation, such as Captain 
Smyth and Captain Francis Beaufort, the eminent 

In a letter to Captain Beaufort, dated June 11th, 
1824, Eennell wrote : — " I return Captain Basil Hall's 
book, with many thanks for the use of it. I have not 
read anything with more satisfaction. It is written 
with much taste and judgment, and is full of character. 
I have compared the place where he saw ice off Cape 
Horn with other reports, and I am confirmed in my 
opinion that the ice there is brought by a S.W. 
current from the ice latitude, passing between South 
Shetland and Cape Horn. The immense ice island 
seen by Captain Hall shakes our received system of 
fonning icebergs, unless there are lands towards the 
Pole. The general currents in the South Pacific 
resemble a good deal those in the South Atlantic 
and the Equatorial Atlantic. A current along the 
shore of Chili and Peru is caused by the prevalent 
south wind. Then the S.E. trade raises its current, 
which shoots off to the N.W., confonning to the line 
of the coast, and growing stronger so as to become 
rapid at the Galapagos. Captain Basil Hall must be 
an able man. He is perhaps educating for future 
great purposes." 

Rennell had a European reputation as an authority 
on winds and currents, and when Baron Humboldt 
left Paris for the purpose of settling finally in Berlin, 
he took London on his way, on ])urpose to have the 
advantage of conversations with the great hydro- 


grapher. In a very interesting letter from the late 
Sir Edward Sabine to Major Rennell, dated April 12th, 
1827, there is the following passage : — " I hope that 
M. de Humboldt, who leaves Paris this day for 
London, will not be disappointed in the expectation I 
have given him that he will find you in tolerable 
health. One of the two principal objects which have 
induced him to take London in his way to Berlin is 
to converse with you on the subject of currents and 
temperatures of the sea, on which he has been latterly 
thinking and seeking out facts even more diligently 
than formerly." 

When Major Rennell had completed his wind and 
current charts, steps were taken for their pubHcation. 
They consisted : I., Of the Eastern Division of the 
Atlantic ; II., The Western Division of the Atlantic ; 
III., Southern Africa, with the Lagullas Current ; IV., 
Currents between the Indian and South Atlantic 
Oceans ; V., The Gulf Stream ; VI., A General Index 
Chart ; VII., Rennell's Current. In 1827, his staunch 
friend. Lord Spencer, offered to represent the import- 
ance of publishing these charts to the Duke of 
Clarence, who was then Lord High Admiral. The 
offer was accepted, and Lord Spencer spoke strongly 
on the subject, his opinion being supported by Mr. 
John Barrow, the Secretary of the Admiralty ; but it 
was left to Major Rennell's daughter. Lady Rodd, to 
carry out the intentions of her revered father after 
his death. " If," she wrote in her preface, " the pro- 
digious mass of information accumulated in the charts, 
with its skilful exposition in the memoir, should lead 
to the prevention of shipwreck, and augment the 
resources of seamen, the noble purpose of my father's 
exertions will have been most amply attained." She 


dedicated the work to King William IV., and mentioned 
that she had received his Majesty's commands to state 
that when Lord High Admiral his attention was 
first drawn to the great scope and importance of the 
undertaking through the discerning zeal of Earl 
Spencer. The editorial work was entrusted by Lady 
Rodd to Mr. John Purdy. 

Most of his hydrographical work was executed by" 
Major Rennell during the last twenty years of his 
hfe ; but he had been making collections and had 
taken a deep interest in the subject since he was a 
midshipman. His charts and memoir were invaluable 
at the time, and he was undoubtedly the founder of 
the science of oceanography, or, as it was called by 
Maury, " the physical geography of the sea." 

Major Rennell was offered the post of first 
Hydrographer to the Admiralty, but he declined on 
the ground that he valued his literary pursuits too 
much to accept any official appointment which would 
take him from them. The post was then given to 



Ruins of Babylon, — Identity of Jerash. — Shipwreck 
of St. Paul, — Landing of Gwsar. 

When Major Rennell had passed his sixtieth year, he 
was still full of energy, and capable of long and sus- 
tained literary effort, although his constitution had 
never recovered from the effects of wounds and fevers 
from which he suffered in India. A relation of his 
wife thus described him at this time : — " He possessed 
the distinguishing mark of a great man — simplicity. 
He had the faculty of disguising and making others 
forget his own superiority, and he was thus spoken ot 
by a contemporary: *In his intercourse with his 
friends to possesses a remarkable flow of spirits, and 
abounds with interesting subjects of conversation; 
at the same time, as to whatever relates to himself, he 
is one of the most diffident, unassuming men in the 
world. His deUcate constitution and his attachment 
to domestic life caused him to retire a good deal from 
general society, but he received his friends every fore- 
noon at his own house.' 

" Major Rennell was of middle height, well pro- 
portioned, with a grave, yet sweet, expression on his 
countenance, which is said to have conciliated the 
regard of all he spoke with. The miniature by Scott, 


painted for Lord Spencer, at about the age of sixty, 
represents hini sitting in his chair with folded arms, 
as in reflection. The forehead is of remarkable height, 
shaded by abundance of grey hair ; the nose long and 
finely cut, the eye mild and sunk below a massive brow." * 

He lost his wife after a happy union of nearly 
forty years. She died at Brighton on the 2nd of 
January, 1810, and was buried at Harrow. She was 
described by one of her nieces as a quiet and most 
amiable woman, thoroughly domestic. She used to 
spend one day in every week at the Middlesex 
Hospital, which was close to her house in Suffolk 
Street. Their eldest son appears to have been a maoi 
without energy or ambition, and of very retiring 
habits. He Uved near Enfield, where he died on the 
25th of December, 1846. The second son, Wilham, 
who was in the Bengal Civil Service, died at Futtyghur 
in July, 1819. He was married, but left no children, 
and his wife followed him to the grave within a few 

From that time all Major Renneirs affections were 
concentrated on his daughter Jane and her children. 
She was beautiful and refined, possessed of great talent, 
and was always present at her father's morning ri- 
unions of learned men. On October 5th, 1809, Jane- 
Rennell was married to Captain John Tremajnie 
Rodd, R.N. The acquaintance arose through the 
intimacy of Major Rennell with Captain Wallis, who 
made the famous voyage round the world in 1766-68. 
Wallis was appointed a Commissioner of the Navy 
Office in 1780, and took a house in Seymour Street. 
He had married Miss Hearle, of Penryn, whose sister 

* " Memorials of the Thackeray Family," by Mrs. Bayne. 


Jane was the wife of Francis Rodd, of Trebartha, in 
Cornwall, and mother of John Tremayne Rodd. 
Commissioner Wallis had charge of young Rodd's 
education, and put him into the navy. He became 
a captain in 1788, and it was at the house in Seymour 
Street that he first met Miss RennelL Their honey- 
moon was passed at Milton Bryan, the seat of her 
father's old friend Sir Hugh Inglis, in Bedfordshire. 
Soon afterwards they took 45, Devonshire Street, 
Portland Place, to be near Major Rennell, and here 
their children were bom — James Rennell Rodd in 
1812, Alicia, Frances, and Wilhelmina. Their father 
was created C.B. in 1815, and became Rear-Admiral 
Sir John Tremayne Rodd, K.C.B., in 1825. In about 
1820 the Rodds removed from Devonshire Street to 
No. 40, Wimpole Street. During the last years of his 
life Major Rennell's affections were centred on his 
beloved daughter and her children, from whom he 
received the most constant and assiduous attention, 
which brightened his declining years and alleviated 
the sufferings of old age, aggravated by the tortures 
of the gout. 

Besides his great labours connected with hydro- 
graphy and the geography of India, Western Asia 
and Africa, Mr. Rennell communicated several papers 
to the Society of Antiquaries, which were printed in 
the Archceologia. The earliest of these was on the 
topography of ancient Babylon, suggested by the 
observations and discoveries of John Claudius Rich. 
It was a subject which had previously engaged much of 
RennelFs attention while at work on the "Geography of 
Herodotus," and it appeared to him that some of 
the inferences of Mr. Rich, who was British Resident 
at Bagdad, were contrary to the evidence of ancient 


writers. According to the uniform consent ot an- 
tiquity, Babylon was of vast size, and was built on 
both sides of the River Euphrates, which flowed 
through the centre of it. Herodotus mentions the 
immense embankments built to confine the Euphrates 
in its proper channel. The city was in form an exact 
square, each side being a hundred stadia long, with 
ditch and a wall two hundred cubits high. A 
hundred brazen gates pierced the walls, and the city 
was divided into two distinct parts by the river. In 
each of the two quarters of the city there was a vast 
edifice: the royal palace in one and the temple of 
Belus in the other. Diodorus further mentions a 
bridge across the Euphrates and two palaces at each 
end of the bridge. 

The ruins of Babylon commence eight miles north 
of the town of Hillah, and a little south of the village 
of Mohawill. They were examined in detail by Mr. 
Rich in 1811, and by Sir Robert K. Porter in 1818; 
and had previously been visited by Pietro della Valle, 
Beauchamp, and Niebuhr. Mr. Rich reported that 
all the ruins of the great city were on the east side of 
the river, consisting of three principal mounds, in a 
north and south line, called Mujallibah, Kasi\ and 
ATnran ibn Ali, from a small mosque on the top. 
At a distance of eight miles to the south-west is the 
vast moimd called Birs-i-Nimrud. The two mounds 
called Mujallibah and Birs-i-Nimrild are about the 
same size, but the last is a hundred feet higher. 
Rich discussed the question whether the Mujallibah 
or the BirS'i'NimrM was the great temple of Belus, 
it being nowhere stated by any ancient writer in 
what quarter of the city that temple stood. Rich 
decided in favour of Birs-i-Nimrud. 


Major Rennell, in the paper discussing Mr. Rich's 
report, pointed out that if, as Mr. Rich stated, all the 
ruins are on one side of the Euphrates, either the 
river must have altered its course or else the state- 
ments of all the ancient writers must be wrong. It 
appeared to Rennell that, in considering the sites and 
distribution of the ruins of this ancient city, two 
circumstances arise that cannot be lost sight of. One 
is the probable change in the course of the river, and 
the other that the whole of the mounds in the neigh- 
bourhood do not belong to ancient Babylon. Without 
a subsequent change in the course of the Euphrates, 
the descriptions of Herodotus cannot be reconciled 
with the position of the ruins. All the ruins are now 
on the eastern side, although the principal palace 
and the hanging gardens certainly stood on the 
opposite side to the tower and temple of Belus. 

Mr. Rich states that beyond Mohawill the ruins of 
Babylon commence, the whole country between that 
village and Hillah having traces of buildings, Hillah 
being nine miles from Mohawill. The Mujallibah 
mound is five miles from Hillah, and about four from 
Mohawill, so that it is nearly in the centre of the 
space occupied by heaps of ruins. Mr. Rich mentioned 
a large canal at Mohawill, which Rennell supposes to 
have been the exterior ditch of the city ; and the 
mound of Mujallibah would be near the centre, where 
the tower and temple of Belus are described to have 
stood by Herodotus. The principal mass was probably 
formed of sun-dried bricks, with a coating of those 
baked in the furnace. The latter have been taken 
away for use in modem buildings; the former have 
been dissolved by rain, and carried away by the winds 
in a pulverized state. The tower of Belus was in ruins 


in the time of Alexander the Great. Herodotus 
places the temple in the central part of the quarter on 
one side of the Euphrates, and the great palace in the 
same position on the other side of the river. On the 
supposition that the river has altered its course, ruins 
exist which might be those of the palace. On Mr 
Rich's plan there are four mounds, besides Mujallibah, 
three of which are described in his memoir ; and of 
these, the one named Kasr is supposed by him to be 
the palace : a view in which Major Rennell fully 
concurs. The opinion is founded on the vast area it 
covers, the solidity of the walls, the superior quaUty 
of the workmanship, and the articles that have been 
found there. 

Kasr is situated a good mile irom. Mujallibah; but 
in order to make the positions agree with the descrip- 
tions of Herodotus and Diodorus, a change of course 
of the Euphrates must necessarily be admitted. 
Nothing is more common than such changes during a 
course of many centuries, in an alluvial soil, especially 
when the river is subject to be choked by the falling 
of ruins. Major Rennell observed that in the course 
of his observations he had found that no cause 
operates more powerfully in diverting the courses of 
streams than fallen ruins. Admitting this possible 
change, Rennell suggests that the mound to the north- 
east of Kasr is the lesser palace, which was separated 
from the other by the river and a bridge. The 
ancient bed can be traced through a course of about 
a mile and a half, with a width of 150 yards, which is 
the same width as that of the present river. " Few 
persons conversant with the nature of rivers and 
their changes will for a moment hesitate to receive 
the internal evidence, contained in Mr. Rich's plan and 


description, in proof of the ravine there shown being 
a deserted bed of the Euphrates, and proving the 
tendency of that river, in common with all others 
that pass through alluvial soils, to vary their courses, 
unless art be employed to prevent it." 

Major Rennell then discusses the questions relating 
to the Birs Nimrud mound, on the western side of the 
Euphrates. He does not think that this mound has 
the character of an artificial work, nor that the 
masonry on its summit is part of such a structure as 
the tower of Belus is described to have been. He 
rather looks upon it as a building which covered the 
summit of a conical hill. But whether it be natural 
or artificial, the Birs Nimrud is so far distant from the 
centre of the ruins of ancient Babylon that it cannot 
have been the temple and tower of Belus. Birs Nimrud 
is seven and a half miles from the Kasr mound, and 
eight and a half from Mujallibah. It cannot even be 
included within the area of Babylon. 

Mr. Rich replied to Major RennelFs paper in 1817, 
in a rejoinder, in which he entered more fully into the 
details collected during his examination of the ruins. 
It has since been discovered that Birs Nimrud 
represents the site of the ancient Borsippus outside 
Babylon; and Sir Henry Rawlinson says that the 
name Borsippa is found upon the records of the 
obelisk from Birs-Nimrud. 

It is astonishing how Major Rennell took in all 
the complicated details of plans such as that of the 
ruins of Babylon; with what acuteness and sagacity 
he compared all the statements of ancient and modern 
writers; how completely he realised the positions to 
himself; as if he had personally surveyed them, and 
how ho built up the whole in his mind's eye with 


wonderful accuracy. This faculty must have given 
the highest kind of enjoyment to his studies, and 
have imparted pleasure which can only be enjoyed by 
those who combine great powers of imagination with 
the acquired habit of critical examination, guided by 
the thoughtful study of a mind always well under 

Of course, Rennell could only base his conclusions 
on the materials within his reach. Knowing the 
passages of Herodotus, Diodorus, and Strabo by hearty 
he compared them with the more recent narratives of 
Pietro della Valle, Niebuhr, Beauchamp, Rich, Ker 
Porter, and Buckingham, and with the plan drawn by 
Rich, who examined the mounds and their positions 
with great care. He had very fully discussed the 
various questions relating to the ruins of Babylon in 
his work on Herodotus, and the deep interest he took 
in them led to his communicating the paper on 
Rich's work to the Society of Antiquaries. 

The final conclusions on these questions, as the 
results of later research, are all in favour of Major 
Rennell's arguments. The Birs-Nmirud was held 
by Rich, Ker Porter, and others to be the tower of 
Bekis, contrary to the views of RennelL From the 
inscriptions discovered on the spot, and from other 
documents of the time of Nebuchadnezzar, there is 
good reason for the belief that it is the site of 
Borsippa, and entirely beyond the limits of Babylon. 
Rennell's opinion that the Euphrates in ancient times 
flowed in a dififerent bed, so as to have the moimds 
marking the ruins on either bank — as described by 
ancient writers — has also been contirmed by later 
research. Canon Rawlinson holds that this is the 
only way to reconcile the ruins as they exist with 


the descriptions of ancient writers. A large canal, 
called Shelil, intervened between the Kasr mound 
and the Mujallibah of Rich, also called Babil, The 
canal may easily have been confounded by Herodotus 
with the main stream of the Euphrates. This would 
have placed the two principal buildings, the palace 
and the temple of Belus, on opposite sides of the 
canal. Canon Rawlinson, therefore, agrees with Major 
RenneU. in identifying the Babil, or Mujallibah mound, 
with the great temple and tower of Belus. He 
further agrees with Rennell that the Kasr mound 
is the great palace of Nebuchadnezzar. Layard says 
that the ruins contain traces of architectural orna- 
ment, such as piers, buttresses, and pilasters. 

This is a very striking example of the accuracy of 
Major Rennell's judgment. It is far from uncommon 
to tind an explorer or a student seizing upon some 
point as a hobby, and then striving to force all the 
other evidence into harmony with it. The way in 
which Rich and Ker Porter argued that Birs-NimrM 
was the temple of Belus is a case in point. Nothing 
could bring it to the centre, or anywhere near the 
centre, of Babylon, or even within the walls of Babylon, 
without the most extravagant stretching of the facts 
to fit into a theory supported by no evidence. The 
method of Rennell forms a strong contrast. Having 
all the evidence in his mind, he carefully studied the 
plan of the ruins, and harmonised the two classes of 
data with such unerring judgment that his views have 
been confirmed by more recent research. 

Another question which interested Major Rennell 
was the identity of Jerash ; and he read a paper at the 
Society of Antiquaries on June 17th, 1824, " con- 
cerning the identity of the architectural remains at 
L 2 

180 JERASH. 

Jerash, and whether they are those of (Jerasa or 
Pella." The inagnificent Grecian ruins at Jerash, in 
the country beyond the Jordan, were discovered by 
Dr. Seetzan in 1806, and afterwards described by 
Burckhardt. Captains Irby and Mangles also executed 
a careful survey. The ruins at Jerash are those of a 
fine city in a beautiful situation. They are on two 
sides of a valley with a stream running through it, 
and consist of two main streets crossing each other at 
right angles. The streets were Uned with double 
rows of pillars, some of which are Ionic and some 
Corinthian. There are remains of pavement with the 
marks of chariot wheels, and elevated ways on each 
side for foot-passengers. There are two theatres, two 
grand temples — one dedicated to the Sun — five or six 
smaller temples, and an Ionic oval space three hundred 
and nine feet long. Upwards of two hundred and 
thirty columns are still standing, and there is a very 
large reservoir for water at a distance of two hundred 
yards. The inscriptions, which are numerous, are 
chiefly of the date of the Emperor Antoninus Pius. 
The ruins at Jerash are considered to be quite equal 
in beauty and interest to those of Palmyra. 

Notices of Pella and Gerasa are chiefly derived 
from the works of Josephus and one or two early 
Christian writers. Josephus describes the position 
and extent of the region called Penea, which included 
Pella and Gerasa. Pella must have been near the 
northern extremity of Perjea, a few miles from Jabesh- 
Gilead, and not far from the southern shore of the 
Lake of Tiberias. But the ruins of Jerash are equi- 
distant from that lake and the Dead Sea, or near 
the central part of the eastern border of Peraea. It 
is, therefore, clear that the ruins at Jerash cannot be 

JERASH. 181 

those of Pella. Major Rennell then proceeds to 
consider how far the ruins may be identified with the 
ancient Gerasa. Josephus mentions Gerasa as being 
on the eastern border of Peraea ; and Eusebius says 
that the Jabbok River flowed between Philadelphia 
and Gerasa, at a distance of four miles from the latter. 
On the whole, Jerash may be allowed to occupy the 
general position assigned by Josephus and Eusebius 
to Gerasa. 

Rennell considered that very great misconceptions 
had existed among modern geographers respecting 
the situation of Gerasa, until the discovery made by 
Dr. Seetzan, in 1806. Rennell is inclined to identify 
Jerash with the ancient (ierasa: a conclusion which is 
now universally accepted. The place must have risen 
into importance in the times of the Antonines, after 
the great descriptive geographers of antiquity had 
ceased to write ; so that history tells us nothing of 
the prosperous period of Gerasa, when its stately 
temples and theatres were erected. It is evident that 
its importance was due to its having been an emporium 
of commerce, through which the great trade route 
passed which was afterwards diverted to Palmyra. 

Major Rennell suggests that the confusion respect- 
ing Gerasa may have arisen from the occurrence of 
the word Gergesenes, in the Gospel of St. Matthew, 
originating the idea that Gerasa was situated near the 
Lake of Tiberias ; but as both St. Mark and St. Luke 
relate the same events to have taken place among the 
CJadarenes, it may be assumed that the word 
Gergesenes is an error of a copyist. There can be 
scarcely a doubt that the extensive ruins at Am-Keis, 
on the southern coast of the Lake of Tiberias, are 
those of the city and fortress of Gadara, mentioned by 

182 GADARA. 

Josephiis as the ancient capital of Peraea. The 
connection of Gadara with sacred history is also 
interesting. It contained inhabited tombs, as in the 
time of the visit of Jesus to this neighbourhood. 
Captains Irby and Mangles, who were there in 1818, 
have given an account of these singular dwellings, 
from which the dead must have been expelled eighteen 
hundred years ago to accommodate the living. Those 
travellers found no other inhabitants of Gadara but 
the dwellers in ancient tombs. These tombs were 
excavated out of the living rock, near the top of the 
mountain, and one of them, in which the travellers 
were hospitably received by the sheikh, was capacious 
enough to contain his family and cattle, as well as his 
guests. The sepulchres appear to be very numerous. 
Rennell points out that Gadara and its sepulchres 
are seven miles from the shores of the lake, but that 
our Saviour is not said to have visited the city of the 
Gadarenes. He merely landed within its territory 
on a shore of the lake over against Galilee, which 
agrees with the territory of Gadara. He came in a 
vessel from the side of Capernaum, and was accosted 
by the man from the tombs immediately on landing ; 
but the tombs from which the man came were in a 
city among the mountains. St. Luke says : — " When 
Jesus went forth to land there met him out of the city 
a certain man who had no abode in any house, but in 
the tombs"; and St. Mark — a man "who had his 
dwelling among the tombs, and always, night and day, 
he was in the mountains and in the tombs." From 
these passages we gather that the man from the 
tombs came from a city which was situated in the 
mountains ; and the particulars seem to point clearly 
to Gadara. 


The question whether the island on which St. Paul 
was wrecked was Malta or an island in the Adriatic, 
and numerous collateral points connected with it, had 
very special interest for Major Rennell. It combined 
hydrography with antiquarian research, and, therefore, 
aroused in him the spirit of enquiry, both as a sailor 
and a comparative geographer. In January, 1824, 
he read a paper before the Society of Antiquaries, 
" On the Voyage and Place of Shipwreck of St. Paul, 
in A.D. 62." From the earliest times the island of Malta 
had been referred to as the place of shipwreck ; and 
this was very satisfactorily demonstrated by Bochart, 
in his " Chanean," written in about the middle of the 
seventeenth century. The person who first disputed 
it was Ignacio Giorgi, a Benedictine monk, of the 
Island of Meleda, on the coast of Dalmatia. In 1730 
he wrote a dissertation to prove that the shipwreck 
of St. Paul happened at this Dalmatian island, and 
not at Malta. The argument turns almost entirely on 
the appUcation of the term " Adria " to the pre- 
sent Adriatic Sea alone. Forty years afterwards the 
learned Jacob Bryant took up the same view. Bryant 
was an antiquary of some note in his day, and the 
author of a curious work, entitled " Analysis of Ancient 
Mythology " — a work denying the existence of Troy — 
and other eccentric productions. He was bom in 
1715, and lived to the age of ninety. His argument 
respecting St. Paul was that the ancient historians 
and geographers down to the time of the elder Pliny 
confine the term "Adria" to the present Adriatic. 
Rennell admits that this is true, but he adds that 
Ptolemy, only seventy years after Pliny, extends the 
name " Adria " to part of the Mediterranean, and 
mentions it repeatedly. 


Major Rennell, in considering the question, weighed 
the evidence of the different authorities with great 
care. He regarded the circumstances of the naviga- 
tion, as related by St. Paul, in respect to the position 
of Melita, as perfectly conclusive in themselves ; but 
as the name of " Adria " was the stumbling-block, he 
set forth, in the first place, the authorities for the 
position of that sea. Ptolemy distinguishes the Gvlf 
from the Sea of Adria. The former bordered on the 
eastern side of Italy, while the latter was to the 
south, forming the north part of the middle basin o£ 
the Mediterranean Sea. The extent of the Sea of 
Adria southwards, beyond the gulf of the same name, 
is fixed by four passages in Ptolemy. In one place 
he says : " Italy terminates towards the south, on the 
shore of the Sea of Adria"; in another: "Sicily is 
bounded on the east by the Sea of Adria " ; and 
again : " The Peloponnesus is bounded on the west and 
south by the Sea of Adria " ; and, finally : " Crete is 
bounded on the west by the Sea of Adria." Ptolemy 
wrote seventy or eighty years after the voyage of St. 
Paul, when the tenn Adria was certainly applied to 
the sea between Sicily and Crete. Although Malta is 
about sixty miles to the south of a line drawn from 
Sicily to Crete, yet the boundary of a sea cannot have 
been so strictly defined, and the ship of St. Paul must 
have been within the strict limits of Adria during 
part of the storm. 

But, apart from the position of the Sea of Adria, 
Major Rennell argued that the whole narrative of the 
author of the Acts — considered with relerence to 
geography, the winds, and other circumstances — 
affords conviction that Malta was the place of ship- 
wreck It was at some distance short of the Island 


of Clauda (the Gozza of Candia) that the ship was 
assailed by the tempestuous wind called " Euroclydon," 
which is the Levanter of modern times ; and here the 
disputed part of the voyage commences. Major 
Rennell corresponded with Captain Francis Beaufort 
on the subject of the Levanters, and in June, 1823, 
the eminent naval surveyor wrote a luminous paper 
on the subject for the use of his illustrious friend. 
The Euroclydon, they concluded, was a strong 
easterly wind, and that off the south coast of Crete, 
coming off* the land, it had some northing in it. 

The undergirding of the ship was the frapping 
with hawsers, which was resorted to when the frame 
was weakened by decay or accident, and there appeared 
to be danger of its opening. Thus strengthened, the 
ship was made to run before the wind under very 
reduced sail. Her course would, therefore, be south 
of west, and would lead towards the Greater Syrtis 
and its dreaded quicksands. So to avoid that danger 
they took in all sail, with the object of lessening their 
rate of motion. This appeared to Major Rennell to 
be the true explanation of the fears that are mentioned 
respecting the quicksands. The surveys of Admiral 
Smyth, when he commanded the Adventure, showed 
that the shores of the Greater Syrtis were quite 
changed in their character since ancient times. A 
firm sandy soil has replaced the old quicksands: a 
change to be accounted for by the operation of the 
surge of the sea in northerly and north-westerly 
storms during many centuries. They have thrown 
up and spread the sand over the lands contiguous to 
the margin so as to raise the surface beyond the 
reach of the ordinary level of the sea, thus preventing 
it from being dissolved or melted into quicksand, as 


formerly. The different state of the Goodwin Sands 
at high and low water respectively affords a practical 
illustration of this. At low water it is so firm as to 
be with difficulty penetrated with a pointed piece of 
wood, while towards high water Mr. Smeaton reported 
that it would not bear the weight ot a man. 

Fourteen days elapsed between the commencement 
of the storm and the arrival of St. Paul's ship at 
Melita, when they were "driven up and down in 
Adria." The narrative does not give the direction of 
the wind after the time when the Euroclydon is first 
mentioned : but as the Levanters are said sometimes 
to continue for a fortnight, it appears most probable 
that the storm generally blew from the eastward, in 
which case Malta would certainly be the Melita of 
St. PauFs shipwreck, as that island lies almost west 
from Crete. It is quite certain that nothing but a 
long-continued storm from the southward could have 
driven the ship, in the specified time, three himdred 
and fifty to four hundred miles to the northward, 
so as to reach the Dalmatian Melita, from her course 
between Crete and the Straits of Messina ; nor could 
this have taken place without land being sighted. 

They found in the port of Melita a ship of 
Alexandria, called the Castor and Pollux, bound for 
Rome, on board of which St. Paul was afterwards 
embarked. She is said to have wintered at Melita : 
that is to say, she had taken refuge there to avoid 
being at sea during the autumnal equinox. Much 
light is thrown on the subject of wintering by the 
proceedings on board the ship of St. Paul at this 
very season. That ship, it appears, was on its way to 
the port of Phenice, in Crete, in order to winter, and 
must have been near it when caught by the storm 


which the mariners had expected and were endeavour- 
ing to avoid. They had previously suffered much delay 
from light and contrary winds, and the season was 
far advanced. Hence, Major Rennell concludes that 
as both ships were acting on the same system, it was 
the ordinary practice of the time. On the approach 
of the expected stormy weather, they sought shelter in 
the nearest port. On this principle, the ship of St. 
Paul had first entered the port of the Fair Havens in 
Crete, but quitted it to go to Phenice as a more secure 
anchorage, contrary to the advice of St. Paul. 

Applying this practice to the Castor and Pollux, 
Major Rennell furnishes a clinching argument against 
the Melita of Dalmatia. She was making the voyage 
from Alexandria to Rome. To suppose that a ship so 
circumstanced should have proceeded to the islands 
off Dalmatia for the purpose of obtaining shelter 
during the season of the equinox involves no small 
degree of absurdity ; for the Dalmatian Melita is 
little less distant from a ship's track between Crete 
and the Straits of Messina than Rome itself, which 
was the final destination of the ship; so that she 
must have gone nearly as far out of her way in order 
to obtain casual shelter as she had to go to Rome, the 
place of her final destination. Rennell held that this 
circumstance alone was decisive against the claim of 
the Dalmatian Melita. His conclusion was that the 
evidence on the side of Malta far outweighed that on 
the other side, even if the argument rested on the 
circumstances of the narrative alone, without any 
regard to the meaning or the application of the term 

On the 4th of May, 1826, Major Rennell read a 
paper before the Society of Antiquaries " Concerning 


the Place where Julius Caesar landed in Britain." 
The first military expedition of Caesar to Britain took 
place in the autumn of 55 B.C., his place of embarka- 
tion in Gaul being Portus Itius for his infantry, and 
another port eight miles distant from it for his cavalry. 
D'Anville decided that the Portus Itius was Wissant 
Bay, between the Capes Grisnez and Blancnez, directly 
facing Dover. Caisar gives no intimation whether he 
landed on the eastern or southern coast of Kent, and 
opinions have differed widely. D'Anville, followed by 
Beale, Porter, and Lewin, held that the landing was at 
Romney Marsh, while Rennell and others maintain 
that Deal Beach was the place of disembarkation. 
This was a question that would have a special interest 
for Major Rennell as a hydrographer. He had studied 
the tides and currents of the British Channel during 
many years with close attention, and such a problem 
as the place of landing of Ccesar would have had a 
peculiar fascination for him. The wind was favour- 
able, but as a southerly wind would be fair either for 
Deal or Romney, this proves nothing, and the enquirer 
must turn his attention to other circumstances. 

Ciesar first sent Caius Volusenus in a ship to 
reconnoitre the opposite coast, and discover all that 
was possible without disembarking. He was absent 
five days. On his return, Ciesar set sail at about mid- 
night of the 24th of August, with a south-westerly 
wind. He arrived off" Dover at ten in the forenoon of 
the 25th, and saw the enemy posted on all the hills. 
He then enquired of Volusenus how far the cliffs 
extended, and he ascertained that a few miles further 
along the coast there was an open and level shore. 
Now this is the case on either side of Dover, whether 
the landing was at Deal Beach or at Romney Marsh. 


Caesar waited until about three in the afternoon, when 
the tide and wind were both in his favour, and then 
gave the signal to weigh anchor. It will, therefore, be 
seen that the question depends on the direction in 
which the tide was running at* three in the afternoon 
on the 25th of August. The distance from Dover to 
the flat coast where the landing was effected is stated 
to have been eight Roman miles, which agrees with 
the distance between Dover and Walmer Castle, 
reckoned along the coast ; but on the west side such 
an open coast as an army would be landed on is twelve 
or thirteen Roman miles from Dover. 

The landings on Caesar's first and second expedi- 
tions are stated to have been at the same place ; and 
in the account of the second expedition a fact occurred 
which alone, in Major Rennell's opinion, proves that 
Caesar landed to the eastward of Dover. It is stated 
that in this second expedition the fleet left Gaul at 
sunset, perhaps after seven, as it was in the summer. 
At midnight the wind, which had been a gentle 
breeze from the south, fell, and the vessels were left to 
the resource of their oars. In the morning it was 
found that they had been carried by the tide far 
beyond their intended point, being the landing-place 
of the preceding year, and they reached it in the 
forenoon of that day by availing themselves of the 
returning tide. The fact to which Major Rennell 
alludes is this : It is said that on the morning after 
their leaving Gaul they saw the land of Britain on 
their left hand. Now, this left hand must be spoken 
of in reference to the general direction of their course 
from Gaul towards their former landing-place in 
Britain. In that case the land in question could be 
no other than the eastern side of Kent, seen on the 


left of the voyagers at daybreak ; consequently, Caesar 
must have been at that time on the eastern side 
of Dover. 

Thus, although the account of the first expedition 
taken alone affords no positive evidence concerning 
the particular side of Dover on which Caesar landed, 
yet, taken with the details of the second expedition, 
and with the fact that both landings were made at 
the same place, they show that Caesar landed on the 
eastern side of Dover, and fix the place at Deal Beach, 
Of course, owing to changes on the coast, the margin 
of the ancient beach on which Caesar landed must 
now be very far inland, as well as considerably raised. 

This original argument of Major Rennell, which 
really settles the question, is one other instance of his 
sagacity and critical insight. The controversy has 
been continued to the present day; but Rennell's 
argument — used by others without any acknowledg- 
ment — has proved too strong for the advocates of 
Romney Marsh, and it is now very generally admitted 
that Deal was the true place of Caesar's landing. Mr. 
Vine has taken much pains to establish the accuracy 
of this conclusion by a careful study of Caesar's line of 
march from Deal, which he traces by comparing the 
descriptions of Ciesar and the physical aspects of the 
country with much learning and ingenuity. 

The direction of the tide at three o'clock in the 
afternoon, when Caesar was at anchor off* Dover, would 
be equally conclusive ; but on this point there will 
always be doubt. Halley calculated that the tide 
would begin to flow to the east at about half-past 
three on the 25th of August, b.c. 55. He first proved 
that this was the day on which Ciesar landed, the 
year being the Consulate of Pompey and Crassus, 


A.U.C. 699 ; the month is fixed by the description of 
the season, and the day by the phase of the moon* 
Sir George Airy, however, put forward an argument 
which, if correct, is fatal to Deal as the landing place. 
He doubts whether Ciesar knew the exact date of the 
full moon ; and as the highest tide takes place a day 
and a half after the full moon, Caesar must have made 
a mistake in placing the two phenomena at the same 
moment, either as regards the day of the full moon or 
that of the highest tide. So he concludes that the 
landing must have taken place on the second, third, 
or fourth day before the full moon. But this may be 
admitted without affecting the calculation of Halley. 
The question is to determine the day at the end of 
August when the tide changed at Dover at half-past 
three in the afternoon. This would be on the 25th of 
August, when Caesar's fleet would have been carried 
forward by the current of the rising tide. 

Professor Burrows has remarked that the changes 
along the coast cannot fail to vitiate the calculations 
which have been held to decide the place of Caesar's 
landing in the Cinque Ports districts. The depth of 
the channel may have largely varied, while the space 
over which the tides travel must be at least two miles 
wider than it was some two thousand years ago. 
Consequently, the point of meeting of the north and 
south tide streams cannot possibly be exactly the 
same; yet this is the assumption under which all 
these calculations have been made. On the whole, 
however, the evidence of the tides, so far as it goes, is 
in favour of the landing at Deal. 

But it is Major Renneirs argument, from the 
circumstance related in the second expedition, which 
really settles the question, quite independently of any 


calculation relating to the tide at Dover in the after- 
noon of the 25th of August. From the position 
whence at daybreak Caesar saw Britain on the left 
hand, in the second expedition, after having been 
carried north and east by the tide, his fleet, with hard 
work, could have reached Deal by noon ; and it could 
not possibly have reached Hythe and Koinney Marsh 
by noon. 

Major Rennell's apparently desultory studies, which 
led to his writing the papers which have been pub- 
lished in the Archceologia, all arose out of important 
work on which he had been engaged. The discussions 
on the ruins of Babylon and at Jerash are connected 
with his work on " Herodotus," and were the natural 
consequences of the receipt of fresher information. 
The disquisitions on the ship^vreck of St. Paul and 
the landing of Caesar were partly the outcome of his 
hydrographical researches, combined with a love for 
the solution of questions where history is dependent 
on geography for its due comprehension. Of the 
numerous services done by Major Rennell for geo- 
graphy and hydrography, one of the greatest is the 
method he introduced of making his science essential 
to the study ot history. When his data were accurate — 
and he generally succeeded in making them so — his 
method being logical and correct, his conclusions were 
right in almost every instance. 



Sir Joseph Banks, with his patronage and his 
hospitable rdunions in Soho Square, and Major 
Rennell, with his works and investigations, his advice 
and assistance ever ready, and his forenoon receptions 
in Suffolk Street, practically formed, with their friends, 
a working Geographical Society during the fifty years 
which preceded its actual inauguration. After the 
death of Sir Joseph, in 1820, Major Rennell was the 
acknowledged head of British geographers for the next 
ten years. Travellers and explorers came to him with 
their rough work, projects were submitted for his 
opinion, reports were sent to him from all parts of the 
world. He presided over the labours of geographers, 
formed a central rendezvous for help and advice ; and 
on his death, the formation of a Geographical Society 
to supply his place became a necessity. 

There was nothing, in the days of Banks and 
Rennell, which did more to advance the general 
interests of geography than the numerous opportuni- 
ties of intercommunication which were offered by the 
hospitalities of Soho Square and Suffolk Street, where 
travellers and students exchanged ideas, and became 
known to each other. When Sir Joseph had passed 
away, and Major Rennell had become too old and 



infirm to take any lead at such meetings, the want 
became generally felt. The machinery would grow 
rusty. It was still a necessity " to lubricate the 
wheels of science." The originator of that well- 
known and frequently used figure of speech is 
uncertain. No one, in after years, ever performed 
that function more gracefully and more efficiently 
than the accomplished nobleman who presided over 
the Geographical Society just a quarter of a century 
after the death of RennelL The Earl of EUesmere 
held that opportunities of occasional intercourse, at 
dinners or evening parties, were so important that he 
requested, after he ceased to be president, to be 
allowed to retain the honour, the privilege, and the 
singular pleasure to himself of continuing to promote 
such intercourse. He then said that " to lubricate 
the wheels of science " was an expression of Lord 
Stowell. No doubt it was ; still, we must go farther 
back for the originator of that happy phrasa 

Lord Stowell was almost an exact contemporary of 
Major Rennell, being three years younger, and sur- 
viving him for six years; but in 1826 old age pre- 
vented the latter from continuing the duties which 
he had performed so well and for so many years. 
Then it was that the geographers and travellers sought 
for a remedy to supply the want they soon began to 
feel. The first to give expression to this feeling was 
Sir Arthur de Capell Broke, a traveller and an author, 
well known for his adventures m Sweden and Norway, 
in Spain and in Morocco. He conceived the idea of 
forming an agreeable dining club, composed entirely 
of travellers. The world was to be mapped out into 
so many divisions, corresponding with the number of 
members, each division being represented by at least 


one member, as far as it might be practicable, so that 
the club collectively should have visited nearly every 
part of the known globe. He first communicated 
his idea to one of Rennell's most intimate friends, 
Colonel Martin Leake, and then to Captain Mangles, 
R.N., to "Legh, the traveller," who had been up the 
Nile beyond the cataracts, and to Lieut. Holman, R.N., 
the well-known blind traveller. They prepared a Hst 
of distinguished men, and a circular was sent to these 
personages, signed by Sir Arthur Broke. The princi- 
pal object of the meetings was announced to be 
the attainment at a moderate expense, of an agreeable 
friendly and rational Society, formed by persons who 
had visited all parts of the world. The club received 
the name of the Raleigh Club, and Sir Arthur Broke 
was for many years its president. The first regular 
meeting was at the " Thatched House," on February 
7th, 1827, when Rennell's great friend, Mr. Marsden, 
was in the chair. The navy was very strongly re- 
presented in the club by Captain Beaufort the 
hydrographer, Basil Hall and Marry at, Franklin and 
Parry, Smyth, Mangles, Cochrane, Murray, Mansell, 
Beechey, and Owen ; and the army by Colonel 
Leake, Major Keppel (afterwards Earl of Albe- 
marle), and Roderick Murchison. Other well- 
known travellers were Baillie Fraser, Colebrooke, 
Cam Hobhouse, Mountstuart Elphinstone, Sabine, 
John Barrow, W. R. Hamilton, and Sir George 

At the first dinner Sir Arthur Broke presented a 
haunch of reindeer venison from Spitzbergen, a jar of 
Swedish brandy, rye-cake baked near the North Cape, 
a Norway cheese, and preserved cloud-berries from 
Lapland. It was then agreed that each member 
M 2 


should be invited "to present any scarce foreign 
game, tish, fruits, wines, etc., as a means of adding 
greatly to the interest of the dinners, not merely from 
the objects of hixury thus afforded, but also for the 
observations they will be the means of giving rise to." 
The evening passed with the greatest enjoyment ; and 
at the next dinner Captain Mangles presented some 
bread made from wheat brought by him from 
Heshbon, on the Dead Sea. Sir Arthur Broke con- 
tributed a brace of capercailzie from Sweden. At 
another dinner a ham from Mexico was presented by 
Mr. Morier, whose health was accordingly drunk. 
Thus the most eminent travellers in London were 
brought together, an interchange of ideas frequently 
took place, and the feeling that the creation of a more 
completely organized institution for the advancement 
of geography was necessary gradually took a definite 
shape. The Raleigh Club had freshened up old 
memories, had kept alive an interest in geographical 
pursuits, and had prepared the way for more 
systematic work. The Club continued to flourish 
after the formation of the Geographical Society, 
becoming more and more closely connected with it 
until, in 1854, the affiliation became complete, and 
the name of Raleigh was changed for that of 
the Geographical Club. 

The question is a little complicated, but the 
evidence in favour of Admiral W. H. Smyth having 
been the founder of the Geographical Society is, on 
the whole, conclusive. Mr. Galton, in 1877, said that 
to Admiral Smyth " was due just one-half the credit 
of the Ibundation of the Society, which was established 
by the combination of two contemporary and inde« 
pendent schemes, of one of which the admiral was 


the sole originator."^ But Admiral Smyth had 
sketched out his well-conceived scheine for a Geo- 
graphical Society, and had enrolled many names in 
the very beginning of 1830, while the other scheme was 
not brought forward until the spring of that year. He, 
therefore, clearly has the honour of priority as a founder. 

Major Rennell's death took place in March, 1830, 
between the births of these two schemes for the 
foundation of a Geographical Society. Admiral Smyth 
was Rennell's intimate friend, and they habitually 
exchanged views and opinions on geographical sub- 
jects. It is therefore almost certain that Rennell 
had been consulted by his friend, and that the last 
subject, or one of the last subjects, that interested 
the dying savant was the project of founding the 
Geographical Society. 

The second scheme was set on foot by Sir John 
Barrow, the Secretary of the Admiralty, who sum- 
moned a meeting of the Raleigh Ckib on the 24th ot 
May, 1830, which was numerously attended. It was 
unanimously decided that a Geographical Society was 
needed, and that its objects should be to print geo- 
graphical information for its members, to accumu- 
late a library and a collection of maps and charts, to 
procure instruments for the information and instruc- 
tion of travellers, to prepare instructions for explorers 
and give them pecuniary assistance, to correspond 
with similar Societies and with geographers in all 
parts of the world, and to open communication with 
all philosophical and literary Societies with which 
geography is connected. This meeting took place 
just two months after Rennell's death. 

* E. G. S, Journal, Vol. XLVII., p. 128. 


A committee was appointed to arrange details and 
report to a second meeting, consisting of six members 
of the Raleigh Club. Sir John Barrow was the chair- 
man, and the meetings took place at his room in the 
Admiralty. Dr. Robert Brown, " Princeps Botanic- 
orum," was naturalist to the Australian expedition 
of Flinders, and had contributed the botanical 
appendices to Parry's " Voyages," Salt's " Abyssinia/ 
and Clapperton's " Journeys." He was secretary, 
president, and for many years the mainstay of the 
Linnean Society. Roderick Murchison, as a subaltern 
in the 36th, had served in the battles of Rorica, 
Vimiera, and Corufia, but retired in 1815. In 1830 
he was a rising geologist. John Cam Hobhouse, the 
friend and companion of Byron, and an ardent liberal 
poUtician, always took an intelligent interest in geo- 
graphy. Mountstuart Elphinstone had been Governor 
of Bombay, and was known as a good historian and a 
sound geographer. Bartholomew Frere, the brother 
of Canning's intimate friend Hookham Frere, was a 
diplomatist and a well-read geographer and scholar. 
These six men formed a committee, to which the 
name of Admiral Smyth was added as soon as it was 
knoAvn that he had already commenced work in the 
same Held. The two schemes were thus amalgamated, 
and a second meeting took place on July 16th, 1830, 
when twelve resolutions were passed, including the 
election of the first president and council Sir John 
Barrow announced that four hundred and sixty names 
had been enrolled in the list of fellows : a proof that 
a favourable opinion had been formed of the utility 
likely to result from the labours of the Society. In 
the first council are to be found the names of Sir 
Arthur Broke, founder of the Raleigh Club; of 


Admiral Smyth, founder of the Geographical Society ; 
of all the members of the committee, except Frere 
and Murchison ; of Captain Beaufort the hydro- 
grapher, and Captain Horsburgh the East India 
Company's hydrographer ; of Sir George Murray and 
Lord Prudhoe ; while the vice-presidents were Sir 
John Franklin, Sir John Barrow, Mr. Greenough, and 
Colonel Leake. Mr. W. R Hamilton and Captains 
Basil Hall and Mangles, F. Baily the astronomer, and 
J. Brittonthe antiquary, complete the list of the 
more important members. Of these, Sir John 
Barrow, Sir George Murray, Mr. W. R Hamilton, 
Mr. (ireenough, and Admiral Smyth were future 
presidents. All the leading politicians and scientific 
men of the time, forty-four naval officers (including 
the king), and fifty officers in the army joined the 
Society. Thus this new organisation, so urgently 
needed, and destined to work so much for good in the 
prosperous future that was in store for it, auspiciously 
commenced its career. 

King William IV. had taken a great interest in 
the works of Major Rennell, as his father had done 
before him ; indeed, George III. gave considerable 
aid in their publication. As Lord High Admiral, 
the sailor-prince received from Lord Spencer an 
urgent representation with respect to the importance 
of publishing the current charts ; and, as William IV., 
he accepted the dedication from Lady Rodd. He 
readily consented to become the patron of the new 
institution, desiring that it should be called the Royal 
(jeographical Society. The king also granted an 
annual donation of fifty guineas to constitute a 
premium for the encouragement and promotion of 
geographical science and discovery, saying to Sir 


Herbert Taylor that he hoped his own oflScers would 
often win it. Until 1838 the whole premium was 
given to one recipient, but when her present Majesty 
intimated her intention of continuing her uncle's 
grant, it was divided into two awards of equal value 
— the Founders' and Patron's Gold Medals — adjudi- 
cated annually to two recipients ; and in that form the 
royal premium has continued to be bestowed ever 
since, except in 1850 and 1855, when only one medal 
was granted. 

The African Association was merged in the 
(rcographical Society in 1833, adding a sura of three 
hundred and eighty pounds to the funds; and 
Mr. Bartle Frere, as its representative, became a 
member of the Council. The Palestine Association, 
which had been formed early in the century, also 
resolved that its funds, amounting to one himdred and 
thirty-tive pounds, papers, and books, should be made 
over to the Society, to be employed as the Council 
might think fit for the promotion of geographical 

Numerous old and intimate friends of Major 
Rennell joined the infant Society, including Lord 
Spencer, Marsden, Leake, Barrow, Smyth, Beaufort, 
Franklin, Parry, Mangles, Inglis ; while his son-in-law, 
Admiral Sir J. Tremajme Rodd, became a member of 
Council and a considerable benefactor to the library. 
His grandson, James Rennell Rodd, was a Fellow of 
the Society from 1830 until his death, in 1892. 

For the first ten years of the Society's existence, 
it was, through the kindness of Mr. Robert Brown 
( Princeps Botanicorum), housed in the rooms of the 
Horticultural Society, in Regent Street. From 1840 
to 1854 it rented rooms at 3, Waterloo Place, and the 


meetings were held at King*s College, by permission of 
the Principal. The house at 15, Whitehall Place, was 
rented from 1854 to 1870, meetings at first being held 
in the large library ; but for twelve years — from 1858 
to 1870 — they were held in the fine room at Burlington 
House, on the left of the court, now pulled down. At 
the termination of the lease at Whitehall Place, the 
freehold of 1, Savile Row, was purchased, where the 
Society has ever since been established, and for the 
last quarter of a century the meetings have been held 
in the neighbouring hall of the London University, by 
permission of the Senate. From small beginnings, 
the Society has increased, during the sixty-four years 
of its existence, to 3,775 Fellows, with an invested 
capital worth twenty-seven thousand pounds, and an 
annual income of ten thousand pounds. The Society 
has spent twenty thousand pounds on exploring ex- 
peditions, and large sums in furthering geographical 
education. It has a system of instruction for geo- 
graphers and explorers, and disseminates information 
throughout the world. Since 1855 the Government 
has granted an annual sum of five hundred pounds in 
order that the collection of maps might be rendered 
available for general reference ; and the Society has 
now become a great national institution. 

Such has been the machinery through which the 
work of Rennell has been continued and perfected. 
Commencing in the very year of the great geographer's 
death, it is alike a monument to his memory and a 
Avitness to the value of his labours; for in almost 
every department it will be seen that the foundations 
were laid by James Rennell. 

The atlas of Bengal and the map of Hindostan, 
with its memoir, are the foundations on which the 


splendid surveys of our Indian Empire have since been 
built. For many years these maps of Rennell were 
the chief, almost the only, geographical authorities 
for India. It was not until 1802 that Major Lambton's 
proposal for a measurement of an arc of the meridian 
and the execution of a trigonometrical survey of India 
took shape, the longitude of the Madras Observatory 
being adopted as a secondary meridian, and a first 
base-line being measured near Madras, and a second 
near Bangalur. Lambton's labours in the field were 
of a most arduous character ; and he was called upon 
from time to time to demonstrate the utility of his 
work. Even Major Rennell at first expressed the 
opinion that route surveys on an astronomical basis 
were equally accurate and more economical ; but he 
became convinced of the superiority of Lambton's 
method long before his death, and welcomed with joy 
the six-sheet map of India by Walker, which was 
partly based on triangulation. The importance of the 
survey was not fully recognised by the Government 
until 1818, when the Governor-General ordered it to 
be denominated for the future " The Great Trigono- 
metrical Survey of India." Colonel Lambton died in 
1823, worn out by incessant toil under a tropical 
sun, and was succeeded by his zealous and accomplished 
assistant, George Everest. Everest was in England 
from 1825 to 1830, studying the newest improvements 
and superintending the construction of instruments 
on the most improved principles, including compen- 
sation bars for the measurement of bases, instead 
of the old inaccurate method by chains. Everest 
returned to India in 1830, combining the appointments 
of Superintendent of the Trigonometrical Survey 
and Surveyor-General in his own person. Thus far 


the progress of the work initiated by Rennell was 
personally watched by that father of Indian geography. 
The year in which Rennell died saw the foundation 
of the Geographical Society, and the return of Everest 
to Calcutta. 

From that date, during the next sixty years, the 
magnificent edifice of the Indian Surveys has been 
steadily built up by a succession of the most zealous, 
accomplished, and resolute geodesists that Britain or 
any other civilised country has ever produced. In 
1831 the first base-line was measured with the 
compensation bars at Calcutta. Everest entirely 
altered the old system of his predecessor by sub- 
stituting the gridiron for the net-work method. He 
introduced the compensation bars, invented the plan 
of observing by heliotrope flashes and the system of 
ray tracing, and designed the plan for the towers. He 
also planned a complete revision of the famous Bengal 
Survey of Rennell, which had held its own for fifty 
years. Great progress was made during Sir George 
Everest's term of oflice — from 1823 to 1843; and 
although there have been modifications and improve- 
ments since his time, nearly everything in the surveys 
was originated by this great geodesist. 

On the retirement of Sir George Everest, his able 
and indefatigable lieutenant Andrew Waugh suc- 
ceeded him, and set steadily to work to complete the 
scheme of triangulation, while topographical and 
revenue surveys were pushed forward at the same 
time. The North- Western Himalaya series, executed 
between 1845 and 1850, was the longest between 
measured bases in the world, being one thousand six 
hundred and ninety miles long. From this series 
the heights of seventy-nine Himalayan peaks were 


measured, including Mount Everest, the highest of 
all: 29,002 feet above the sea. I have dwelt 
elsewhere on the dangers and difficulties incurred 
in the execution of these surveys, which are quite 
equal to those encountered in the majority of Indian 
campaigns* The Indian surveyor devotes great 
talent and ability to scientific work in the midst of 
as deadly peril as is met with on the battle-field, and 
with little or no prospect of reaping the reward that 
he deserves. His labours are of permanent and lasting 
value, but few know who obtained these valuable 
results except his immediate chief and his colleagues. 
Sir Andrew Waugh's principal undertaking, besides 
the completion and extension of the triangulation 
designed by Sir George Everest, was the survey of 
Kashmir and the mighty mass of mountains up to 
the Tibetan frontier, under the superintendence of 
Colonels Montgomerie and Godwin Austen. The 
latter sketched some most difficult ground with 
great taste and skill, including several enormous 
glaciers; and a peak was measured, provisionally 
called K. 2, which is 28,290 feet above the sea. 
It is now known to geographers as Mount Godwin 

The successor of Sir Andrew Waugh, who retired 
in 1861, was General James T. Walker, while Sir 
Henry Thuillier became SuiTeyor-General. Topo- 
graphical surveys were continued in all parts of 
India ; the trigonometrical work was practically com- 
pleted, and many surveyors penetrated into Persia 
and Central Asia, extending the knowledge of the 
countries bordering on British India. The brilliant 

* ** Memoir on the Indian Surveys" (second edition), p. 104. 


work of the surveyors in the service of our Indian 
Government and the successors of Rennell has re- 
ceived cordial recognition from the Geographical 
Society. Gold medals have been adjudicated to Sir 
Andrew Waugh, Colonel Montgomerie, and Colonel 
Holdich, while twenty explorers in Central Asia, 
including four natives, have been granted medals or 
minor awards ; so that from the foundations laid by 
Rennell a very noble scientific edifice has been raised 
by the surveyors — his successors — in the sixty years 
following his death. 

In the study of historical and comparative geo- 
graphy the succession from Rennell has not been 
so complete or so continuous. Yet Western Asia, 
between India and the Mediterranean, has been a 
field of investigation on which the gold medal of 
the Geographical Society has been won six times 
since the death of Rennell: by Rawlinson, and 
Chesney, Layard, Hamilton, and Symonds, who 
were all occupied on the same investigations that 
occupied the thoughts of Major Rennell during a 
long course of years. But Sir Henry Yule and Sir 
Edward Bunbury are the successors who come 
nearest to Rennell in their methods of research, and 
in the interest they have taken in reading ancient 
history by the light of modern geography. Yule, 
like Rennell, had the advantage of getting his 
geographical training in the field, and in the very 
same corps to which Rennell belonged, the Bengal 
Engineers. Returning home in 1862, Yule brought 
many years of experience in the East, a great fund 
of knowledge amassed from books, and a fine critical 
instinct to bear on the literary tasks he undertook. 
The chief of these were " Cathay, and the Way 


Thither," issued by the Hakluyt Society in 1866, 
and his edition of " Marco Polo." The Hakluyt Society 
had been established in 1847 for printing rare and 
unedited voyages and travels. The work of such a 
Society was after Yule's own heart. He contributed 
six volumes to its series, and he was president from 
1877 until his death, in 1890. Sir Henry Yule's 
wonderful memory, his passion for accuracy and 
thoroughness (insisting upon an index being properly 
prepared for every volume), and his love for old 
travellers and their narratives, made him an ideal 
president for such a Society. He wrote a memoir 
of J ames Rennell for the Royal Engineers' Magazine 
with that painstaking accuracy, with occasional 
touches of humour, which characterize all his 
writings; but it was all too brief, although he con- 
templated writing a fuller biography : a design which 
he was not spared to fulfil. Like Rennell, Sir Henry 
Yule was made an Associate of the French Academy ; 
but he only received the honour just before his death, 
while Rennell enjoyed it for many years. The last, 
or almost the last, letter Sir Henry Yule ever dictated 
was one of thanks for this much-coveted honour; 
and he concluded it with these touching words, 
" Cum corde pleno et gratissimo moriturus vos saluto." 
He received the gold medal of the Royal Geographical 
Society in 1872 for the eminent services he had 
rendered to geography in the publication of his three 
great works. 

Sir Edward Bunbury was perhaps more closely 
in sympathy with Major Rennell than Sir Henry 
Yule, from the point of view of his Western Asiatic 
studies; for Sir Edward had occasion to read the 
work of Rennell on the " Geography of Herodotus " with 


care, and to criticise some of his conclusions, in the 
preparation of his own great work on "Ancient 
Geography." Like Rennell, Sir Edward is remarkable 
for thoroughness and accuracy ; and the late Professor 
Freeman used to say that when he saw E.H.B. at 
the end of an article he always felt perfect confidence 
in the correctness of the information it contained. 
His " Ancient Geography," compendious and exhaus- 
tive, and at the same time written in a scholarly 
and agreeable style, will, as Sir Henry Rawlinson 
anticipated, be found in the library of every geo- 
grapher and scholar, and become a text-book in the 
educational establishments of the country. 

But Sir Henry Yule and Sir Edward Bunbury, 
to whom must be added the honoured name of Sir 
Henry RawUnson, are the only great successors of 
Rennell in England, as comparative geographers. 
This interesting and very important branch of the 
science has been comparatively neglected in this 
country. The foundation of the Hakluyt Society 
indicated that the subject was not without interest 
for English readers ; and the work of Major, Bumell, 
and some others, was excellent of its kind. Rylands 
and Schlichter have lately shown us that the study 
of Ptolemy still has attractions for geographers ot 
this generation ; and the Geographical Society's last 
travelUng student, Mr. Beazley, has turned his atten- 
tion to the identification of the places mentioned in 
the Periplus, of the Erythraean Sea, and to a revision 
of the work of Dr. Vincent. It is to the institution 
of the travelling studentships of the Royal Geo- 
graphical Society, in conjunction with the Universities 
of Oxford and Cambridge, and to the geographical 
readerships at our principal seats of learning, that we 


must look as the most hopefiil agencies for the 
revival of a taste for comparative geography. Mr. 
Mackinder and others have recently explained to 
students Avith great force and ability the close con- 
nection between geography and history. Until this 
connection is impressed upon the rising generation 
of travellers, and is present in their minds, we shall 
continue to be deluged with rubbish in the form ot 
books of travels, and we shall look in vain for the 
charm which is felt in reading the works of travellers 
who were also scholars and observers. To such men 
a distant country is not a mere succession of moun- 
tains and plains, where more or less Avild sport is to 
be found. To them every hill and dale is alive with 
associations of the past. They derive lasting pleasure 
and instruction from their impressions and investiga- 
tions, and they impart them to others in the most 
useful and interesting form that a geographical 
narrative can take. They also furnish really valuable 
material for students. We must look to the labours 
of our Mackindcrs and Yule Oldhams for the develop- 
ment of a new generation of Rennells and Vincents, 
of Yules and Rawlinsons, and for the revival of that 
taste for geographical research which has hitherto 
received less real encouragement among us than in 
almost any other country of Europe. 

]\Iajor llennell's work in connection with the 
African Association was not the least vakiable of his 
services. In the second volume of his "Grcography of 
Herodotus " he laid the foundations of the study of 
the geography of Africa ; and by couipilations of maps 
containing all existing information, and by his elucid- 
ations of the travels of Mungo Park and others, 
he became the real centre of African exploration 


during a long term of years. As regards actual 
discovery, the efforts of the Association were mainly 
concentrated on the Niger, although it originated 
good work both on the Nile and in the Libyan 
desert. Rennell lived just long enough to see the 
solution of the Niger question, and in a way which he 
had not expected. 

Thus the Geographical Society, on its creation, 
found the Niger problem just solved. The practical 
result of the Niger exploration has been that a new 
market is opened for British manufactures, now under 
the auspices of the chartered Niger Company : that a 
very considerable addition has been made to the sum 
of human knowledge : and that the world is the better 
for many records of bravery and heroic devotion to 

Many desultory African expeditions were en- 
couraged and some were assisted by the Geographical 
Society during the first twenty years of its existence; but 
it was not until Dr. Livingstone appeared on the scene 
that the era of discoveries on a large scale commenced. 
In this department of geographical work, the mantle 
of James Rennell fell on the shoulders of Sir Roderick 
Murchison, who, among his other great services, was 
the steady promoter of African discovery, and the 
warm friend of African travellers during twenty years. 
As Rennell's map of Northern Africa inaugurated the 
operations of the Association, so Sir Roderick's address 
in 1852 on the " Great Features of Africa " may be 
considered to have commenced the modern era of 
discovery. Livingstone's famous journey down the 
valley of the Zambezi was made between 1853 and 
1856, and from 1858 to 1864 he discovered the Shir6 
and Lake Nyassa. In the same period Dr. Barth was 



making excursions round Lake Chad, discovering the 
great river Benue, and completing a hazardous and 
adventurous journey to Timbuktu. In another 
direction the equatorial lakes of East Africa and the 
sources of the Nile were being made known. That 
accomplished scholar and traveller, Richard Burton, 
discovered the Lake Tanganyika in 1858 ; and in 1862 
Speke settled the question of the Nile sources. The 
problem of ages had occupied the attention of Major 
Kennell during his studies of Herodotus, Ptolemy, and 
Edrisi, and it had excited his interest in a high 
degree. He had not ventured to place the sources of 
the Nile further south than 6° N. ; but Speke's 
discovery established the fact that the most distant 
Nile sources are well south of the equator. In the 
thirty years that have elapsed since the death of 
Speke, the great work of completing the discovery of 
the interior of Africa has steadily progressed. Living- 
stone, Burton, and Speke all received large grants in aid, 
as well as encouragement and cordial sympathy, from 
the Council of the Geographical Society ; and in 1877 
that body resolved to raise a special " African Explora- 
tion Fund " : a measure which resulted in the despatch 
of the expedition led by Joseph Thomson, and organized 
from first to last under instructions from the Council. 
It had a clearly defined aim, and was conducted ably, 
economically, and with complete success. The Council 
has shown its appreciation of their work by adjudicat- 
ing the royal medals to twenty-four African travellers : 
the first to Lander, in 1832, for discovering the mouth 
of the Niger ; the last to Selous, in 1893, for twenty 
years of pioneering work in Mashonaland. There have 
also been seventeen minor awards conferred for work 
in Africa. The Geographical Society may fairly claiux 


to have carried on the work bequeathed to them by 
Major Rennell and the African Association with great 
liberality, with ability, perseverance, and success. 

Major Rennell was the founder of oceanography, 
or that branch of geographical science which deals 
specially with the ocean, its winds and currents ; to 
which, in recent years, has been added the study of 
its depths. His current charts and memoir, constructed 
and prepared with extraordinary diligence and ability, 
are the foundations upon which all subsequent 
investigations have been based. He was assisted and 
advised by accomplished marine surveyors, such as 
Smyth and Beaufort. The former was the founder 
and president of the Geographical Society. The 
latter was hydrographer for a quarter of a century, 
and on the Council of the Society for twenty years, 
always maintaining the most cordial relations between 
the Society and his department at the Admiralty. 
His successor, Captain Washington, was secretary to 
the Society and also on its Council ; and the three 
subsequent hydrographers have been vice-presidents, 
and almost continuously on the Council. An annual 
report from the hydrographer on the progress of the 
surveys always follows the president's address; and 
indeed, their aid has been so continuous since the 
foundation of the Society, that the hydrographers 
have almost become ex- officio members of the 

Mr. Findlay, who served on the Council of the 
Geographical Society for nearly twenty years, from 
1857 to 1874, was perhaps the most direct descendant 
of Major Renneirs hydrographical side, for he was the 
successor of John Purdy, the personal friend of 
Rennell, and editor of his current charts. Purdy died 
N 2 


in 1848 ; and in 1851 Mr. Findlay published his well- 
known directory for the navigation of the Pacific 
Ocean. He devoted several years of intense labour 
and application to this worlc, which was the model of 
all his later productions. These comprised a series of 
six nautical directories for the whole world, which are 
monuments of industry and perseverance, and stand- 
ard authorities in every quarter of the globe. Findlay, 
like Rennell,took a deep interest in Arctic exploration. 
He was one of the leading advocates for its renewal in 
1875, and just survived to see the expedition of Sir 
George Nares fitted out. As the successor both of 
Purdy and of Laurie, who gave Rennell so much 
useful aid in his hydrographical researches, Findlay 
was better fitted than any other man to write the 
paper on ocean currents which was pubhshed in the 
Geographical Society's Journal for 1853. He there 
declared that, although detached facts and numerous 
observations had been recorded, yet the generaUsation 
of these data, and their reduction to a uniform system, 
remained nearly in the same state as when Major 
Rennell completed his investigation of the currents 
of the Atlantic. In other words, the hydrographic 
work of Rennell held the field without a rival for a 
quarter of a century after his death. The very first 
contribution to the science of oceanography was 
Renneirs memoir on the Agulhas current in 1778, so 
that he was the father of oceanography. His sub- 
sequent memoirs contained the first elucidations of 
the system of oceanic circulation; and his current 
charts, published under the editorship of Mr. John 
Purdy in 1832, embodied all previous knowledge. 
The invention of apparatus for deep sea sounding has 
opened out a whole world of investigation in the 


depths of the ocean of surpassing interest. The 
science has grown in the last forty years with rapid 
strides, and now we are on the eve of the completion 
of the monumental work of the Challenger expedition. 
But Rennell ought always to be remembered, and his 
name should be held in honour, as the originator and 
founder of this branch of geographical science. 

In this chapter a glance has been cast over the 
progress of the several departments of the science 
of geography in which Major Rennell took the deepest 
interest, since his death, sixty-four years ago. This 
is, in fact, a review of the work of the Geographical 
Society, which was founded in the year that he ceased 
to live and to work, and has carried forward his 
labours with zeal and perseverance. The Society is 
his successor and executor. How great the debt of 
posterity is to the illustrious geographer cannot be 
measured. The information he collected, his general- 
isations, his methods, and his treatment of doubtful 
problems, became the common property of his fellow- 
countrymea They have permeated more or less the 
writings and thoughts of his successors, and must 
have exerted a subtle, but important influence on 
succeeding generations of geographers. All culti- 
vators of that popular and most interesting science of 
geography owe a debt which can only be paid by 
remembering the high qualities and devoted zeal, and 
by striving to imitate and follow the noble example of 
James Rennell, who, so far as this country is con- 
cerned, was the founder of their science. 



Major Rennell was a great sufferer from the gout 
during the last years of his life. He lost the use of 
his hands during long intervals, and was often con- 
fined to his bed or to a sofa. But his daughter, 
living in Wimpole Street, was a constant visitor, 
and her children, of whom he was very fond, were 
frequently with him. He continued to hold his 
forenoon receptions, and maintained a keen interest 
in public affairs and in those geographical pursuits 
which had formed the chief work of his life. Some 
old friends had been removed by death. Sir Joseph 
Banks had passed away in 1820. But Rennell had" 
formed pleasant intimacies with younger men. 
Always a sailor at heart, his later friends were for 
the most part naval, including Beaufort and Smyth, 
Franklin and Parry, and his son-in-law, Tremayne 

The great English geographer had been an 
Associate of the Institute of France since the 26th 
of December, 1801. In 1825 the gold medal of the 
Royal Society of Literature was awarded to " Major 
Rennell, who for half a century had been pre-eminent 
among the geographers of Europe." Owing to his 
infirmities, he could not attend at the Society's rooms 
in Lincoln's Inn Fields to receive it. A deputation, 

rexxell's correspoxdexce. 215 

consisting of the President, the'Bishop of St. David's, 
Archdeacon Nares, Sir WilUam Ouseley, and others, 
therefore waited upon Major Rennell at his own 
house in Nassau Street (formerly Suffolk Street) 
where he received from the bishop's hands that 
honourable testimonial of literary merit. 

Rennell was pleased by this recognition of his 
work. Writing to Captain Beaufort, he said : " I am 
truly thankful for your kind congratulations. These 
are the rewards of such people as ourselves, who do 
not place the summum honum in dross and dirt, but 
in the good opinions of our fellow-citizens " ; and to 
Mrs. Smyth : — " Your good wishes and congratulations 
are worth a dozen medals. I confess I was nmch 
gratified by the adjudication of the medal, and felt 
myself much honoured by the mode of presenting it 
to me." His labours were fully appreciated by his 
contemporaries; and although they are less known to 
later generations, their influence is still felt among us 
in many ways. 

Rennell's correspondence in his old age is occupied 
with interesting subjects pleasantly treated, and every 
now and then a phrase or sentence reminds us of the 
writer's education at sea and of his habit of looking at 
things from a sailor's point of view. Thus, in refer- 
ring to Captain Basil Hall's book, he writes : — " There 
is much taste and judgment in the editorship. He 
sets us down at a place (sleeping by the way, like 
Ulysses), and having the hawsers in the tier for those 
who are accustomed to warping." His letters to 
Captain Beaufort relate to the literary subjects which 
interested both, such as the paper on Jerash, and 
questions relating to Levanters in the Mediterranean 
and the wind Eii/roclycion, They exchanged and lent 


new books to each other — for it was long before the 
days of Mudie — and discussed them in their lettera 
The " Naval Histories " of James and Brenton appeared 
at about the same time, and Rennell's opinion was 
that " neither of the * Naval Histories ' was what it 
ought to have been ; but I prefer James', as being the 
more useful of the two. The critique on Brenton in 
the Edinburgh Review is much too personal to. pass 
for criticism, but I pity not the man who seeks to 
degrade Lord Howe — as great a man as Nelson, but 
not always fortunate. Nelson owed much to Lord 
Howe's moral as well as physical victory. I never 
knew what Nelson's idea of Lord Howe was, but 
heroes always respect each other. I was much pleased 
with James's account of Trafalgar, and have studied 
it; but more is wanting about Lord Howe's 1st ol 

In these later years Major Rennell took a deep in- 
terest in the Arctic expeditions which were despatched 
between 1818 and 1827. He was intimate with Sir 
John Ban-ow, as well as with Parry and Franklin, 
and his friend Beaufort was appointed hydrographer 
in 1825. Wlien Franklin's narrative of his terrible 
sufferings in the frozen lands appeared in 1823, 
Rennell declared that he had never heard of such 
trials before or of such heroic fortitude in facing 
them, and he looked forward to discussions on the 
subject with Beaufort and Franklin. He had read a 
long letter about the Mackenzie River from Kendall 
to Mr. Walker, of the Admiralty, and suggested that 
the great body of fresh water flowing down it might 
be one cause of the absence of ice near its mouth. 
In 1826 Franklin was away again on his second 
expedition, and we find Rennell thanking the hydro- 


grapher for his kindness in allowing him the perusal 
of the explorer's interesting letters. "Franklin 
seems fall of hope, and in the mood that promises 
success based on reason and good sense. Poor man ! 
how I felt for him when I read that part of his letter 
where bitter reflection returns ; and I was very much 
touched when I found that he remembered me with 
so much kindness in the midst of the desert. The 
letter is quite a treat throughout. I never knew a 
man so full of hope — founded, I think, on rational 
expectation. I am much gratified to be remembered 
on the borders of the Arctic Circle." 

Major Rennell took the same interest in the 
attempts of Parry to make the North- West Passage, 
once by Hudson Strait and twice by Lancaster Sound ; 
but he was not sanguine of success in the direction of 
Prince Regent's Inlet. Writing to Mrs. Smyth on 
October 31st, 1825, he said:— "I have to thank you 
for your kindness in communicating to me tidings of 
the safe return of our adventurous navigator, Captain 
Parry. Success in his attempt I could not expect ; all 
that I looked forward to was his safety. It was my 
opinion, as he knew, that the Regent's Inlet would 
lead him into a cul-de-sac of packed ice at the back of 
Melville Peninsula: in fact, the ice which Captain 
Franklin saw continually drifting to the eastward 
with the prevalent westerly winds through * Franklin's 
Pond,' as I call it. Accumulating in the bay behind 
the Fury and Hecla Strait, it would attach itself to 
the ice with which Captain Parry saw it filled up 
during his previous voyage." This was the last voyage 
to the north during Rennell's life. But his name had 
already been immortalised in the Arctic regions by 
his friend Captain Parry during the first voyage. 


Immediately to the eastward of Cunningham Inlet, 
on the coast of North Somerset, there is a bold head-^ 
land. It was clearly distinguished on August 29th, 
1820, when the Hecla was on her return voyage; and 
Parry wrote in his journal : — " I named the headland 
after Major Rennell, a gentleman well known as the 
ablest geographer of the age." * 

The last subjects of importance which occupied 
Rennell's attention were these Arctic geographical 
problems, and the discoveries of Captain Clapperton 
in the basin of the Niger. PaiTy's observations of 
currents and sea temperatures during the second 
voyage were valuable as material in the construction 
of Rennell's Atlantic current charts; while the light 
thrown on the geography of the far north by Franklin 
and Parry would further have assisted the illustrious 
geographer in his generalisations if it had reached 
him earlier. But the close of a long and valuable 
life was approaching. 

Severe physical suffering was assuaged by the 
pleasure of conversing with friends, by watching the 
gradual solution of questions which had long occupied 
his mind, and, above all, by domestic affection. The 
attentions of Lady Rodd never flagged, and her 
children were an abiding interest to the sufferer 
especially his one little grandson and namesake— 
" double namesake," as he called the child — James 
Rennell Rodd. He was born on February 28th, 
1812, and his three sisters followed, and were named 
Alicia, Frances (born in 1815), and Wilhelmina. The 
letters of Major Rennell to his grandson cover the 
period from 1812 to 1819, and they are so charming, so 

* ** Parry'a First Voyagi'," p. 265. 


sympathetic, and enter so completely into all that would 
interest a young boy, that some extracts from them 
cannot fail to be acceptable to those who have followed 
the life-story of the great geographer. Rennell always 
seeks to raise the thoughts of the boy he loved with 
such tender affection, while he interests and amuses 
him. His letters are full of lively sallies and bright 
and witty passages, but he never resorts to injudicious 
banter. He was past eighty and the boy was twelve 
— there were seventy years between them — ^yet the 
venerable and learned savant always treated his 
grandson with deference, anxious that no words of 
his should hurt the boy's feelings or wound his sus- 
ceptibilities. When the child was five and six the old 
major printed the letters in red ink. In due time 
young Rodd was sent to Dr. Pinckney's famous school 
at East Sheen, and his grandfather went down to pay 
him a visit and walk round the playground with him. 
A few days afterwards he wrote and told him how 
much he had thought of him and of his school, and 
that he had derived much comfort from what he saw 
there. " You have only as yet skimmed the surface 
of English history," he went on. " You have not 
perhaps read of Sir William Temple, a great states- 
man during the time of King William III., and who 
indeed, to the honour of the king's taste, was admitted 
to his private society and friendship. Your present 
school was then the country house of Sir William 
Temple, and there (as well as at Moor Park, another 
of his houses) King WilUam was accustomed to visit 
Sir William as a friend, and their conversation was 
supposed to relate in great measure to State affairs — 
til at is, government. Kings have not at all times 
sought such kinds of companions, but King William 


was a wise and an honest man, and, I verily believe, 
acted for the best. Now you must think, when you 
are playing under that magnificent tree which stands 
in front of the house, that perhaps King William and 
Sir William Temple have sat in conference under the 
very same tree, revolving in their minds the best 
means of securing the comfort and happiness of 
miUions of people. And you must also bear in mind 
that it was Sir WiUiam Temple's high personal 
character, added to his talents and knowledge, that 
was the cause of this connection, so honourable 
to both. Sir WiUiam's mansion has had a fate 
of a more dignified and useful kind than many 
others that were formerly inhabited by some of our 
great characters. Mr. Pope mentions one or two of 
them which had passed to money-dealers and city 
knights. Now yours has become a nursery from 
whence the future Temples are to be transplanted, 
and finally destined to govern, ornament, and enrich 
their country. 

"I received, in the presence of your dear father, 
your very afiectionate letter congratulating me on my 
arrival at the entrance of my eighty-first year. I 
thank you most kindly for your aifectionate atten- 
tions to me, and trust, by the blessing of God, that 
I may escape what David has so justly said is so 
commonly the lot of those who are said to * be so 
strong ' ; nor have I a wish, whilst I preserve my 
faculties, that it should so soon pass away. I am 
truly sensible of the great blessings which I enjoy, 
and, not the least, that of having so good a grandson. 
I rejoice to think that we are so soon to meet Pray 
present my best respects to Dr. Pinckney." 

It is curious how one train of thought led to 


another quite different in these letters to his young 
descendant, showing how completely the old man 
abandoned himself to the pleasure of free communion 
with one whose age brought back all the delightful 
memories of his own boyhood. " You say," he wrote, 
" that you are reading ' Homer ' with your mamma 
You must be greatly delighted. Mr. Pope's poetry 
has so much harmony in it. He seems to have 
spun verses as freely as a spider his web ;" and this 
figure leads Rennell to thoughts of the huge spiders 
he had seen during his wanderings on the Island of 
Rodriguez when he was a midshipman, and he gives 
his grandson a most interesting account of them. 
He then mentions the entertainment to which he 
went, given by Captain Parry, on board the Hecla. 
When his grandson had reached the age of four- 
teen, and had gone to Eton, we find Major Rennell 
answering his questions about the shape of the globe, 
and explaining why the feeling of cold is greater 
when the wind is blowing than in a calm, and he 
tells him much home news. " I dined with papa and 
mamma on Tuesday (February, 1825), and met with 
very agreeable company. There were two persons — 
Lord Carleton and Lord Stowel — one of eighty-five or 
eighty-seven, and the other about my age." In another 
letter of the same year there is an aecount of Clapper- 
ton's African journey, and of Belloo, King of Sokatu, 
written carefully, in a way that would be perfectly 
clear to a boy of that age. In the following year 
young James began Xenophon's "Anabasis," and his 
grandfather reminded him that this was the book 
upon which he had written, in order to illustrate its 
geography. " You will like it when you are able to 
comprehend it fully. I take Xenophon (take him 


as they say, 'all in all') to be one of the greatest 
men of antiquity." 

From 1825 to 1829 James Rodd was at Eton, and 
continued to receive these channing letters from his 
grandfather : one a most interesting and instructive 
one on the diverse habits of the ostrich and cassowary. 
The last letter is dated the 1st of December, 1829, 
written with gout both in the hands and feet, but, 
like all the others, cheerful, affectionate, and instruc- 
tive. Major Rennell was now eighty-seven years ot 
age, and in the last month of 1829 he slipped from an 
arm-chair and broke his thigh. He hardly ever left 
his bed again, and died on the 29th of March, 1830. 

There was only one suitable resting-place for the 
remains of the greatest geographer that England has 
produced. On the 6 th of April they were interred in 
the nave of Westminster Abbey, and there is a tablet 
to his memory, with a bust, in the north-west angle 
of the nave. On the day after the funeral the Times 
published a notice, from which the following is an 
extract : — 

"One quality which peculiarly marked his writings, and 
which cannot be too much held up for imitation, is the in- 
genuous candour with which he states the difficulties he could 
not vanquish or acknowledges the happy conjectures of others. 
Those who have studied his * Geography of Herodotus/ and 
followed under his guidance the ' Retreat of the Ten Thousand, 
will have felt how much this quality augments the value of his 
reasonings. In all his discussions his sole object was the 
establishment of truth, and not the triumph of victory. 
Another characteristic of this amiable y)hilosopher was the 
generous fidelity with which he imparted his stores of learning 
in conversation. A memory remarkably tenacious, and so well 
arranged as to be equally ready for the reception or the dis- 
tribution of knowledge, made him a depository of facts for 
which few ever applied in vain. Adapting himself to the level 


of all who consulted him, he had the happy art of correcting 
their errors without hurting their feelings, and of leading 
them to truth without convicting them of ignorance." 

Till Rennell's time, as Sir Henry Yule truly ob- 
served, it could hardly be said that England could 
boast of any great geographer. His pre-eminence in 
that character is still undisputed, like that of D'Anville 
in France, and of Ritter in Germany ; but the superi- 
ority of Rennell over the French and German students 
consists in his many-sidedness. D'Anville and Ritter 
were students, and nothing more. Rennell had far 
wider experiences. He was a sailor and a marine 
surveyor, accustomed from boyhood to active service, 
and habituated to the study of nature in many seas. 
He was a land surveyor and explorer, mapping the 
vast ramifications of the deltas of the Ganges and 
Brahmaputra, and exploring the wild forest region at 
the base of the Himalayas. It was his twenty years' 
experience in the field, at sea and on shore, that 
placed him on a far higher level than D'Anville or 
Ritter. The beauty of his character, one trait in 
which is referred to by the writer in the Times, is 
also shown by his friendships and by his family 
relations. Gentle, courteous, and simple-minded, he 
was the type of a perfect English gentleman. 

The best known portrait of Major Rennell is the 
miniature by Scott, painted for Lord Spencer, which 
has already been described. It was engraved by A. 
Garden, and published in 1799, appearing in the 
European Magazine of 1802, and is reproduced in 
the Frontispiece. An excellent porcelain medaUion 
was executed at Sevres from a model, when the 
major was much older. A replica was presented to 

224 ]£l(x^e of baron walckenaer. 

the Royal Geographical Society by Lady RodA There 
was another at the India Office, which Sir Henry 
Yule caused to be photographed to illustrate his 
article on RcnncU in the Royal Engineers' Journal 
of January, 1882. A beautiful wax model by Hogbolt 
was presented to Sir Henry Yule by Major Rennell's 
only surviving grand-daughter in 1882. He left it 
to Sir Joseph Hooker in 1890, who presented it to the 
Royal Society. There is also a small portrait in 
uniform, painted in India when he was about thirty- 
five years of age, which is now in the possession of 
Mrs. Rennell Rodd. 

The doge on Rennell at the French Academy was 
read by Baron Walckenaer, the secretary, on August 
12th, 1842. He said that in early youth Renneirs 
habit of reading the authors who wrote on geographical 
subjects aroused the desire to imitate them. He read 
with avidity the works of travellers and historians, 
and, not having had time to acquire a knowledge of 
Greek and Latin, he supplied this deficiency by 
studying the translations. He loved to familiarise 
himself with the rich literature of his own country, 
and it is duo to this taste that he acquired the power 
of writing with purity in his own language. Rennell 
was so deeply impressed with the importance of hydro- 
graphy for ensuring the prosperity of his country that 
he commenced his career with work in this branch 
of science, and he closed it while engaged on the same 
labours. Baron Walckenaer then refers to his seven 
years' service on the survey of Bengal, and remarks 
upon his retirement with the rank of major : — 

" But that simi)le title, which one is accustomed to associate 
with the name of the English geographer, seems, from its use 
by him, to acquire a lustre superior to other titles. It is true 


that the worship rendered to science produces effects similar 
to those of a more venerable cult : it raises the humble charged 
with good works, and debases the proud loaded with the vain 
honours of the world." 

After quoting the passage from the addresses of 
Sir Joseph Banks, already referred to, with reference 
to the " Bengal Atlas," Baron Walckenaer says that — 

"Major Kennell had been received in England with an 
empressement equal to the reputation he had made and to 
the services he had rendered. But it was owing to his social 
qualities as much as to his talents that he made powerful 
friends. He was successively elected a Fellow of the Koyal 
Society, a Member of the Institute of France, of the Imperial 
Academy of St. Petersburg, and of the Koyal Society of 
Gottingen. If Rennell did not wish to accept either dignities 
or wealth, it was not that he might obtain rest, but that he 
might preserve his independence and devote himself entirely 
to the projects he had conceived. He aspired to a higher 
renown than could be obtained by the publication of maps. 
He desired, by his writings, to take his place among critical 
geographers ; or, ' rather, he simply obeyed that passion for 
geography which, when it has once got possession of the 
intellect, grows imtil it is satisfied, and furnishes new means 
of acquiring a more complete knowledge of the globe we 
inhabit, the phenomena produced there, the productions that 
are renewed, the people that have appeared and move on its 
surface. The thought, when it succeeds in maintaining itself 
at such an elevation in time and space, no longer perceives the 
succession of events and the conflicting interests, except at the 
distance where history will one day place them." 

After discussing the " Bengal Atlas " and the 
" Memoir on Hindostan," Baron Walckenaer goes on 
to say that the reception they met with is not ex- 
plained altogether by their intrinsic merit or by the 
interest caused by the political and military events of 


which India was the theatre at that time. He held 
that there was another cause, which it would be 
useful to explain: — 

"The history of the progress of geography in modern timea, 
down to the days of Kennell, is comprised in four or five 
names. Ortelius and Mercator — rivals and friends — and after- 
wards tlie Sansona, had co-ordinated in a vast collection, 
contained in voluminous atlases, everywhere copied, every- 
where reproduced, the materials of the science. But Guillaume 
Delisle was the first to cast off the heavy loads of error borrowed 
from Ptolemy and the reveries of the Middle A.ges. With the 
aid of recent astronomical observations of itineraries which 
had been transmitted to us by the ancients, Delisle founded 
the system of modern geography. The edifice, of which he 
In id the foundations, was completed and perfected by D'Anville. 
Thus Kolgium and France had alone i)roduced men who were 
distinguished as geographers. Those who were eminent as 
followers in their footsteps — IMaeuw, the intelligent disciple of 
Tycho-Brahe, Homann, Hasius, Wischer, Robert de Vagondy, 
Phillipe J3uache — were all Belgians, Germans, or Frenchmen. 
The country of Isaac Newton, down to nearly the end of the 
eighteenth century, had not given birth to a single geographer 
who had made a name equal to the least of those above 
mentioned. Major llennell, by the publication of his maps 
and his * Memoir on Hindostan,' made that vacancy disappear 
which existed in the ranks of the eminent men of all kinds 
whom England had produced, and the satisfied sentiment of 
national pride increased once more the number of eulogies 
which were due to geography." 

Baron Walckenaer then refers to Rennell's labours 
in connection with the African Association, and to his 
great works on the "Geography of Herodotus" and 
the "Retreat of the Ten Thousand." The work on 
the " Currents of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans " 
occupied the last years of his life, and Baron 
Walckenaer says that : — 

£loge of baron walckenaer. 227 

"The * Current Charts' of Kennell, and the explanatory 
volume which accompanied them, form the most learned 
attempt that had yet been made touching that department 
of the science. But the fact that he worked unceasingly to 
rectify his charts, is a proof that he himself was not entirely 
satisfied with them. 

" However, he lived to a great age, though of a delicate 
constitution, which had been injured by wounds received 
in his youth. Sobriety, moderate daily exercise, the recrea- 
tions of society after the hours of work, tender care taken 
of him by his family, produced this happy result. It ought 
not to be omitted, also, that the excitements of ambition and 
of politics never troubled either his days or his nights. Not 
tliat he was indifferent to what concerned the welfare of his 
country, nor a stranger to the disagreements of those who 
shared the responsibilities of its government. A friend of 
Fox and of Lord Spencer, he belonged to that party which 
believed that the English Constitution ran more danger of 
being injured by the encroachments of the Crown than by the 
invasions of parliamentary authority. He was a Whig in the 
older sense of that word. But when he was consulted on 
subjects relating to his special studies, he showed an equal 
zeal in enlightening all those who were capable of profiting 
by his information for the advantage of his country, to what- 
ever party they belonged.'* 

Baron Walckenaer concludes his eloge by giving 
some account of the personal appearance of his hero 
and of his last illness. It is a noble tribute, and all 
the more valuable because it is the production of an 
absolutely impartial savant of great learning, and 
upon whose judgment the most implicit reliance may 
1)0 placed. Moreover, it becomes still more gratifying 
when we remember it is the production of a French- 
man — the native of a rival country. But where 
geography is concerned, the rivalry between France 
and England has never been anything more than a 
generous and friendly emulation, 
o 2 


Lady Rodd accompanied the remains of her 
beloved father to their last resting-place in West- 
minster Abbey. She then devoted several years to 
the pious labour of revising new editions of his 
principal works and of publishing his current charts 
and memoir. Admiral Sir John Trema3nie and Lady 
Rodd continued to live at 40, Wimpole Street. The 
admiral died at Tunbridge Wells in 1838. Lady 
Rodd long survived him, retaining all her faculties to 
the very last. At the age of seventy-four she met 
with a severe accident by falling and breaking her 
thigh — the very same injuiy which happened to her 
father. But she recovered, and died, literally of no 
illness, but old age, on the 14th of December, 1863. 

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«Ba8hflal Fifteen. By L. T.Meade. «The Falaoe BeautUtil. By L. T. 

»The'Wliite House at InohGK>w. mroJ^^^-^ « ^* ^ ^. , 
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*^^J?lSi^^**^'^**-"^^'^- "Fiiiow S?*'Leader." By Talbot 

„, ^J^*"*v _ J * «.. Balnes Reed. 

The King's Ck>mmand: A Story #* WorM ofOi]>l>* ThA Rf>^»«- «f 

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Lost in Samoa. A Tale of Adven< Ijost among white Aftloans. By 

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Edward S. EUis. For Fortune and Qlory: A Story ot 

Tad; or, ''Getting Even** with the Soudan War. By Lewis 

T^irn By Edward S. Ellis. Hough. ^ 

*Alse precurmHe in superior binding, 6b. tack. 

Crown 8vo Library. Cfuap EdUi^ns. Gilt edges, as. 6d. each. 

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Cloth gilL 
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Illustrated throughout. 


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the Huguenots. By Thomas 

Adam Hepburn's Vow: A Tale of 

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Hering (Mrs. Adams-Acton^ 
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'* He Conquers who Endures." Bjr 

the Author of **May CnnninghamTi 

Trial.- &c 

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liittte lilzsie. 

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All Sorts of Adventures. 

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Some Farm Frienda. 

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Our Schoolday Hours. 

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SelteHeiufavm CaistU # Con^ai^i PtAUtatieia. 

BnnW Mil »lw BoTi. 8liB« and Doll. 

Tha Hatr of BlmdalA. Aunt LuoU'a Laokat. 

TlidlynnTitBlioiulUSSohaiil. I'bB U*«iD Mirror. 

C]Klm«<tatxiHit,&aoJ^ItewAr(L T1» coat of Havanj^ 

Thornt «kd THUi^. (Clover FranL 

ThacuoXoointhoaobln'H N«t Amonff tfas S«dBElnb- 

Ths BkiloiT ^ mm uiue Buttt MsiwbU. 

■■Wanted— a King "aerie*. C*«i^ .ErmT^^IUu^^ud. »>. 6d. each. 

WiulWd-sKlneiDT, HowUsrlaHiC^NDTHTTBbyinHbi Uiftili. 

^tplBEelfl BrawnB. Wiih Oitebw] DcAdinu by Hiun FumllL 
•lea In Ortier Lmjb. Bv JuuiSidilad. 
The World's VVorkers. A Scrlci oS Nev and OriEinal Volnm"- 

Ohulia Haddon Bpnrieon. t " — ■■ ^'^ ''■^' — '" — 


In. By E. 1 

Libraiy of Wondera. lUiisiraied Gilt-boola lia- Boyi. ^pec, IS.; 


looka^.^ llhAsiraitd. 

Up» ud Downa at a DonJcey'i 

3eS and LoiL 

^t'i'HOK^'Mld aOM BtOHH 

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'■ Throuah Flood -Tlirougb rirt,-' 

^^^f^'^ ""• "- 

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lly Pijpular Authur.-.. With Four 

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'"' E? t5Sd'l*£mif ^"'™^- 

*n"isi,«"~ "•••"■ 


Seekins • city. 


Preltv Piiik'H Purnona' nr Tba 

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i^V!^lu£lt%r. Tbe 

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Stones of the Tower. 
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May Onnalxifftuun'B Trial. 
The Top of tne Iiadder : How to 

Little FlotMun. 
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The uhildren of the Court. 
Maid Malory. 


r. and othor Taloa. 

four Oats of tne Ttppcvtoooi 
Marion's Two Homea. 
Ziittle Folks' Bonday : 
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Poor KeOly. 
Tom Henot. 

Throuffh Peril to Forimwi. 
Aunt Tabitha'B Wallk. 
In Mlsffhiirf Affain. 

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In Quest of Qoldi or. Under 

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For Queen and Xinff. 
Bather West. 
Three Homes, 
o^i WorklDff to Win. 

Perils Afloat and Brigands 

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The **Ix>ff Cabin" Series. By Edward S.Ellis. With Four FoU- 
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The Lost Trail. | Camp-Fire and Wi^rwam. 

Footprints in the Forest. 

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Down the Mississippi. J Lost in the Wilds. 

Up the Tapajos ; or, Aaventures in Brasil. 

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Ned in the Woods. A Tale of I Ned on the Biver. A Tale of ladiaa 
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Ned in the Blook House. A Story of Pioneer Life in Kentucky. 

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The Land of Temples (Indian 
The Isles of the Paoiflo. 
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A Bamble Bound Franoe. 
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jj^ood. I '^^ ^^® South Pole. 

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Bhymes for the Young Folk. 
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My Diai^-. With za Cdoored 

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boards, 8s. 6d. ; cloth. gQt edjjfes. 8s. 
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Is. Od. 

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Full-page Illustrations. 
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